Academics strike back in two-hour boycott

Owen Maroney, an academic in philosophy, echoed these warnings. He said, “I moved here from Australia two years ago and I had to take a pay cut to do so. The fact is post-doctorate jobs in the UK are not well paid compared to international standards.”The UCU are planning two more two hour boycotts during Hilary term. “The last thing we want to do is affect students,” Hoad stressed.“However, an exam boycott, in which academics refuse to mark exams, is on the cards if the university refuse to negotiate.”A spokesperson for the University of Oxford told Cherwell, “The University respects the right of individuals to take part in lawful industrial action.“Contingency plans are in place aimed at minimising any disruption or inconvenience such action may cause to students, staff, and visitors to the University.” The lunchtime strike was not without consequences, however. The University spokesperson added, “Oxford University will be deducting two hours’ pay for a two-hour stoppage.”Universities around the country participated in yesterday’s strike. However, eleven institutions have been criticised for “bullying” staff into not participating. Emails from universities including Oxford Brookes, the University of Leicester, Glasgow Caledonian University and University of Surrey were condemned by UCU for threatening to dock pay for an entire day and discouraging academics from striking at all. UCU criticised these universities’ “baffling willingness to increase disruption for students as a way of intimidating staff”.Academics have never been “locked out” for an entire day for participating in unionised strike action before. UCU has threatened subsequent legal action against institutions such as Oxford Brookes University, as well as further industrial action if universities do not respond to concerns about pay cuts.NUS President Toni Pearce urged a speedy resolution. She said, “We need to see the employers and unions getting round the table and negotiating a fair and sustainable pay settlement.” Members of the University and College Union (UCU) took part in a two hour strike yesterday in protest against what they see as a cut in real wages. The protests, which took place in Wellington Square and outside the St Cross Building, Manor Rd, follow on from a one-day strike last term.Garrick Taylor, a post-doctorate researcher in biochemistry, explained his reasons for striking. “We’ve been given a pay-off of one per cent, a real term pay cut, which means in the last four years we’ve received a fourteen per cent real terms pay cut.“For many, it means that we are simply paid less than other professionals. However, for some it means being on the breadline. This is especially true of newly-qualified staff who are often put on fixed-term contracts. They are being paid little and don’t even have job security.”“I was a student not that long ago and I assumed that once I had a ‘proper job’ after qualifying, my money troubles would be over, but I now have a second job just to make ends meet.”Terry Hoad, former President of the UCU’s National Executive Committee, pointed out that not everyone is experiencing such money troubles at Oxford. “The University have got money piling up in their reserves. This is clear in the pay rises they give to high-level staff such as the Vice-Chancellor who is currently on £380,000. Such moves are insensitive and insulting when you are telling others lower down the pecking order to stick with what they’ve got,” he said.Others warned that pay discrepancies will have long-term impacts. One protester pointed out, “Universities are part of the job market and academics are intelligent people who can go and get other professional work. Bad salaries in academic positions only speed up the brain-drain away from our universities. The nature of the job market is that it is usually the best academics who leave to get better paid jobs elsewhere.”