Last Thursday, university staff boycotted their normal timetables in a row over pay. Members of the University and College Union (UCU), UNISON and Unite trade unions put down their lecture notes, closed down their power points and picked up their placards in an attempt to show their anger at the wage issues which currently cloud higher education.
Around 80 people formed a picket line outside of the Main Building on Park Place, along with smaller groups of strikers who congregated on King Edward VII Avenue and outside the Glamorgan Building. Edmund Schluessel, National Executive Councillor for the NUS and Cardiff UCU Executive committee member, attended the strike and believed that it was a success.
“I think the strikes went well — the level of enthusiasm was high and the support of students was stronger than I’ve ever seen it, and this was repeated across the UK.”
Following the strikes, The UCU has called on its members to follow a ‘Work to contract action’ rule. The tactic, which has been active since the 1st of November, encourages University staff to work no more than their contracted hours and to under no circumstance exceed the maximum number of hours stipulated in the Working Time Regulations, which is 48 hours a week.
Further terms of the ‘Work to contract action’ rule include performing no voluntary duties such as out of hours cover and attending no voluntary meetings that are not contracted. Former PHD and current PGCE student at Cardiff University Edmund Schluessel explains the significance of the ‘Work to contact action’ rule for University staff, saying: “Work-to-contract is an important tactic because the average lecturer’s workload of 56 hours a week is unhealthy, unsustainable and hurting our education. A 2008 poll found increased workload was decreasing student’s contact time; a 2012 survey found that 40% of academic staff have visited their doctor as a result of workload.
“Working to contract puts pressure on university management to stop cutting staff and to stop making educators choose between teaching students or complying with needless bureaucracy.” After seeking an increase in pay above the proposed 1% offered by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), the UCU are threatening further action if their demands are not met. The idea of further strikes is something that is currently being discussed as Schluessel explains: “The UCU’s national congress agreed that one strike day was probably not going to be enough to win a fair deal on pay. As a result, the possibility of a two-day or even three-day strike by UCU, Unite and Unison together is being discussed. While this isn’t definite, and we might not know until a week before it happens, if I had to guess I would say it will probably happen the last week of November.”