British educators, university staff strike against ‘unfair’ pay rise

Picket lines sprang up across the UK on Thursday as educators staged a one-day strike against a one percent pay rise offered to university staff. Critics say the hike amounts to a 13 percent cut in real terms, due to Britain’s soaring cost of living.

The strike was arranged by a rare coalition of the three main unions – UCU, Unite, and Unison – which represent academic and university support staff. The unions and members of staff on strike say the one percent pay rise is meaningless.

If we take into account inflation over the past four years, then wages haven’t kept up with the cost of living. So in terms of travel fares, food costs, and spiraling electricity and energy prices, our members are earning less than they were four years ago in real terms,” Unison coordinator Ruth Leven told RT. 

RT correspondent Sara Firth reported that unions want to negotiate a fairer deal. She also explained that the wider argument surrounds general living standards across the UK, which are affecting all sorts of professions – not just those in the education field.

Many students also turned out in a show of support for their lecturers.

The student-run National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts said that the strikes “represent a pivotal moment for the fight for education and the fight to save the welfare state. Last night a number of campuses were occupied and today we have been standing with our staff.” 

A crowd of around 600 people marched from the University of Leeds to the city center. The rally culminated with talks from union representatives and the President of the Leeds Metropolitan Student Union.

Around 200 people marched through Oxford, causing small traffic jams in the old, narrow streets that make up the historic city.

In Birmingham, students and staff blocked every gate to the university by 9am. The same happened in Newcastle.

“I think it’s fair that lecturers get better pay. Students support staff and staff support students,” a student from Birmingham told The Independent.

Around 100 protesters gathered in Cardiff. Bridget Taylor, a student on strike, said that she supports “what the lecturers are doing. People are paying £9,000 (US$14,400) a year now, and they’re going to get less for their money.”