Published on January 29, 2014 | by William Thomas0
Staff protests see little student supportStudents showed little support for lecturers and University and College Union (UCU) reps during walk-outs last week.
SUARTS President Shelly Asquith however, joined the protest against the pay differential between UAL staff and the institution’s senior management.
Despite a pay increase of one per cent this year, university staff across the UK argue that, in real terms, they have seen wage cuts of 13 per cent since October 2008. This resulted in SUARTS organising ‘a day for fair pay’ – a two hour staff walkout aimed at highlighting these issues, on January 23.
In an interview with the BBC, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Despite another embarrassing round of pay rises those at the very top have enjoyed recently, universities are still refusing to improve a miserly one per cent pay offer and are still oblivious to the hypocrisy of their actions.
“Any kind of disruption is always a last resort but, after five years of pay suppression we have little option but to escalate our action.”
Asquith said that the ongoing pay disputes reflect that while the cost of living has increased, wages have not seen an equal rise.
She said: “Lecturers are really struggling and so I think this is about a wider debate about how education is funded. With students now paying £9,000 tuition fees each year, that money is going into the pockets of university management who have seen huge pay rises.”
She added: “I think it’s integral to any campaign that students and staff are united.”
However, last week’s day of action, and another similar demonstration on Tuesday January 28, saw very little student support.
“I’ve not heard about this at all. But I do agree that staff should receive a wage that reflects the current living situation of London,” CSM Graphic Design student, Fran Powell, told Arts London News.
It seems the message either did not reach students, or they were not inspired to take part, despite a flurry of posters around campuses and numerous posts in various UAL Facebook groups,
Gary Horne, chair of the UCU for LCC, argues that the issue of unfair wage cuts affects the current student generation almost as much as it affects the current staff: “If we let lecturers and tutors be undervalued and underpaid, then when your generation inherit those jobs you’ll be working for crap money.”He added: “We don’t want to harm the students we teach, but sadly you have to harm something. We felt this was a way of not going out totally on strike but that still shows our disaffection.”
LCC student Leila Collins felt that the demonstration would be more powerful if it affected senior staff, as opposed to the students: “I obviously accept that [lecturers] are underpaid, but this affects our time. They should be doing things like this on their own time – not ours.”
A spokesperson for Nigel Carrington, UAL’s Vice Chancellor, explained: “Many of our staff, as in most universities, receive incremental salary progression worth up to an additional three per cent.
She added: “In the current climate this is more than many other sectors.”
Asquith is certain that with the support of SUARTS and UAL students, a difference can be made, stating: “This is why the Student Union is supporting them – we are encouraging students to come out.”