As students, we have a big stake in campus workers’ struggles. Ultimately, we want a democratic UCL, run together by students, staff and the community, with everyone treated decently. Right now, when the people who make our education possible are over-stretched and under-paid, our education suffers. A sexist 14% pay gap makes things particularly bad for women in academia. And students themselves either work now or will in future, so we want decent pay, pensions and conditions too. This isn’t just a question of ethics: it’s our fight too.
Last term the UCU (the trade union representing academic and related staff) fought back against attacks on their pensions by launching a marking boycott. Using dodgy valuation methods, the government and the universities (including UCL) have exaggerated a shortfall in the USS pension scheme to justify making staff pay more into their pensions but get out less, while limiting the employer contributions to cut costs. UCU members voted to take action as the 6-figure-salaried university managers’ attacks that left them no choice. The marking boycott was lifted as the UCU entered into new negotiations with employers on a national level and members will vote before 26 January on whether to accept slightly reduced packet of cuts or continue to campaign against them. UCL Defend Education will support them for a swift resolution that stops all cuts for the benefit staff and students, and if further strikes are necessary to protect our lecturers’ conditions we will back them too!
Fair Play for TAs!
Postgrad teaching assistants, unionised by both UCU and UCLU, recently began organising “Fair Play for TAs” to oppose their poor treatment. Wages that are insultingly low on paper are further undercut in reality because many departments refuse to pay them for all the hours they actually work. But postgrads have already won improvements in some departments. Postgrad TAs should check out here.
Our solidarity is reciprocated – for instance, UCL trade unions continue to support our campaigns against fees. When we support each other, students and workers can be the most powerful force on the campus. Get involved in UCL Defend Education to find out how you can join the fight.