Editor’s Note: Unfortunately disruption has made this edition of The Badger a little different. Unavoidable circumstances meant that this edition was delayed. Consequently, some of these articles are a little older and we haven’t been able to get the newest stories to you this time. However, we think that it is fair that those who wrote great articles have them published, and these important stories are read by you.
Words by Jasmine Crowhurst, News Co-Editor
It has recently been announced by the University and College Union (UCU) that further strike measures will be taken by lecturers and staff nationwide, including the University of Sussex this academic term. These dates will be spread over three separate weeks during February and March 2022 for a total of ten working days. The dates where students can expect disruption are as follows: Monday 14 February to Friday 18 February, Monday 21 to Tuesday 22 and Monday 28 February to Wednesday 2 March. There are also reports that further strikes may occur later this year, potentially later in March.
The University and College Union (UCU) , which represents 130,000 academics and staff in educational environments, has claimed university leaders have “failed staff and students”. They referred to unmanageable workloads, pay inequality, and exploitative and insecure contracts that it says are “rife across the sector”.
Strikes are a form of collective industrial action to achieve a shared goal. To do this workers withdraw their labour in order to disrupt their workplace and force employers to negotiate with them on the conditions of their work.
Staff From 44 universities, including Sussex staff are among those to walk out for the full planned 10 days. Staff from a further 23 institutions will join in the second week of the planned strikes, making a total of 68 institutions taking part this academic term. Additionally, some staff are involved in ASOS action, whereby they work strictly to their contract hours and terms.
Strike action has happened multiple times over the last few years. In December 2021, 58 universities striked for 3 days which resulted in bringing employers to the negotiating table. Despite this, the issues have not been resolved meaning university workers have resorted to further strike action.
Professional staff and lecturers at Sussex are striking for two interlinked issues, 1. Pay, equalities, workload and casualisation and 2. The USS pensions dispute.
Pay in higher education has fallen by more than 17.6% against RPI (Retail Price Index) since 2009. Under the pay dispute, Strikers are seeking to address precarious employment conditions, often known as casualisation, where highly insecure teaching contracts are becoming relied upon in the education sector.
Evergrowing workloads in the industry are also a reason for staff striking. According to the UCU University staff work, on average, 2 days a week unpaid – equivalent to 3 months each year. They look to address pay inequalities across staff where their report finds a 17% pay gap between Black and white staff, a 15.1% pay gap between men and women, and a 9% disability pay gap.
A dispute over USS pensions stems from changes introduced in 2011, where the average member stands to lose around £240,000 bet over their lifetime. Staff are demanding a £2,500 pay increase, protect their benefits and resolve the pension dispute.
Picket lines at Sussex are located at the Falmer Main entrance, Knights Gate Road and the A27 Bus stop. There are also neutral spaces on University campus, such as Falmer House and Meeting House.
The Sussex Student Union supports the strike and the National Union for Students (NUS) reported that 73% of students said they supported university staff taking part in the strike action.