UCLan lecturers finally take to the picket lines after Storm Franklin disruption

UCU members at the university held picket lines on Adelphi Square in disputes over pay and working conditions.

By Aimee Seddon
Tuesday, 22nd February 2022, 4:10 pm

Today (Tuesday 22 February), UCU members at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) took to the picket lines during their second day of walk outs over pay and working condition rows.

Starting yesterday, staff are conducting a 5 day walk out over the disputes, although picket lines only went up today due to the severe weather conditions caused by Storm Franklin.

Explaining why the strike is needed, Michael McKrell, who has been the Branch Chair of UCLan UCU for over seven years said: "It's part of the four fights dispute, and the first is the general pay offer, and the second is pay equality because there needs to be agreement to end people being paid differently for the same work because of their gender, ethnicity, or disability.

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UCU members at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) took to the picket lines today over pay and working condition disputes.

"The third fight is an end to casualisation, there's lots of academic stuff on short term contracts, which means they have insecure employment status, they can't really build a career, plan a future, get a mortgage, that kind of thing, and finally, workload is a major problem across the sector, but there is no national agreement on the work yet.

"Locally, actually, our branch has had some quite good agreements with management on casualization, we're working together on workload, and our pay inequality is not the worst in the world but it is a national dispute, and we're part of that so we're fighting for others as well, standing shoulder to shoulder with other branches, where these problems are a lot worse."

UCU members at UCLan, along with 68 other institutions held walk outs yesterday and today over pensions, pay and working conditions, whilst a further 63 of these, including UCLan, will strike on February 28, March 1 and March 2 over the latter issue alone.

These five days come as staff at 44 other institutions began strikes last Monday over pension rows, including nearby Lancaster University.

Staff are doing a 5-day walk out currently but may strike again in future if the dispute is not resolved.

Staff are also engaged in action short of a strike (ASOS) which involves working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling classes cancelled due to strike action, or undertaking any voluntary activities.

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With 58 institutions striking over the same issues back in December, Michael, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Journalism, Media and Performance commented: "It's disappointing because what we would normally hope for is that after the first wave of action, the employers organisation and the union would get together and at least timetable a series of negotiations to try and make progress but that hasn't happened, which is why we're here again today, why we will be back next week, and why we might be back after that."

In order to resolve the pay & working conditions dispute, UCU is demanding a £2.5k pay increase for all staff, as well as action to tackle unmanageable workloads, pay inequality and the use of insecure and exploitative contracts

UCU say the dispute is over 20% real terms pay cut over the past 12 years, unmanageable workloads, pay inequality and the use of insecure contracts.

Michael, who has been at UCLan for over twenty years, adds that so far they have not heard anything from university officials, but they have had great response from students passing by.

Speaking to the Post last week, a UCLan spokesperson said: “The decision to strike is very disappointing and first and foremost our concern is for our students. They have already been through a period of considerable uncertainty and disruption due to the pandemic so we will do everything we can to minimise the strike’s impact by putting contingency plans in place.”

Second year friends at UCLan, biomedical student Aimee Elmer and biology student Monica Smithies, say they hope that universities listen in order to stop the disruption to the students.

Aimee said: "I understand the issue behind the strikes but it would be frustrating if all my lectures were being cancelled, we're in second year so we didn't get a proper experience first year and we're just trying to take everything that we're getting face to face."

Michael McKrell, the Branch Chair of UCLan UCU said: "We don't want to be in this dispute"

Monica added: "It is unfair for students that we have to go through that when it's not out fault they're not being treated like that."

Meanwhile, third year UCLan student Naweendra Jayisundara said: "I definitely support the lecturers because they're preparing the next generation for this country so if they're not paid well then they can't do their best job."

The final day of strike action in week three has been called to coincide with the student strike on Wednesday 2 March, organised by the National Union of Students (NUS), who are supporting UCU’s industrial action and demands, and Michael adds that he hopes UCLan's student union will get involved.

He concluded: "What we're after today is to raise the profile of the dispute and to call on our management to put pressure on UCEA, which is the employers organisation, to get in touch with the union to end this dispute, because we've got a lot of challenges to face, and we want to face them together. We don't want to be in this dispute, and as long as it drags out, it makes it more and more difficult for us to come to that agreement."