'Although pay is important I feel incredibly angry about the way the University is putting education second to the need to make money from businesses on whose behalf the research is done'
Pickets were out across York today as the Higher Education trade unions, UCU, Unite and Unison held the first stage of industrial action in pursuit of a decent pay award. York St. John University in the centre of the city had picket lines on all three gates to the campus, and there were an impressive 25 pickets at the King’s Manor site. York University’s Heslington campus was picketed at all the main gates.
A lunch time meeting was held in the city centre for activists, and included students and representatives of the York Peoples Assembly. In a full and frank discussion it was broadly agreed that strikes were not going to be effective unless the wider arguments about the need to defend education were made with the many casual staff and students that were also badly affected.
Although the strike is about pay this is because it is one issue on which a national ballot could be held. In the discussion it became clear that what drove many there was the attack on education itself. One activist who is a researcher said: “Although pay is important I feel incredibly angry about the way the University is putting education second to the need to make money from businesses on whose behalf the research is done.”
Students expressed the view that the £9,000 fees they have to pay are not going to the lecturers that deserve the money, one asked “What does the Vice Chancellor do to earn £250,000 a year?”
There was much approval for the York Peoples Assembly guests who talked about how the PA can cut across the sectionalism of the trade unions and potentially lead to a new basis of unity involving low paid cleaners and administrators, lecturers and above all students.
John is a history teacher and UCU rep. He is an active member of the People's Assembly and writes regularly for Counterfire.