WHILE planned strike action by staff belonging to the University College Union took place in Lampeter on Wednesday (May 25), lecturers at Aberystwyth University chose to snub the nationwide strike.
The UCU negotiators met with the UCEA last week in the hope of finding a solution to the current dispute, amidst growing anger over news that vicechancellor pay rose by 6.1% last year.
UCEA made no improvement either on a 1.1% pay offer to staff, or on measures to address gender inequality and insecure contracts.
In Lampeter, members of UCU picketed the College Road entrance of Lampeter University between 12noon and 2pm on Wednesday.
Academic and support staff are also taking this action in protest at yet another restructuring process, which will affect posts in all departments of UWTSD Lampeter.
A member of Lampeter staff said: ‘We are all feeling very uncertain of the future. Some members of staff picketed in masks on Wednesday, so as not to be identified and to highlight how vulnerable we feel.’
Students and local residents joined the demonstrators and passing cars honked their horns to show their support for the action by university staff.
A senior member of academic staff said today: “Lecturers and support staff are overstretched to the point where students will suffer. If there are further job losses the Lampeter campus will lose all coherence, and the town will suffer in consequence.
One local resident supporting the strike said, “We support the staff, because what happens in the university affects us in the town. The university is being run down. We need the university and we need the students here, they bring business to the town.”
A spokesperson for the University of Wales Trinity Saint David said: “The University received formal notification from UCU that it would be calling its members to take industrial action which would take the form of 2 days of strike action on May 25 and 26. The University has noted this information and has ensured that there is a process in place to ensure that the quality of the student experience is maintained.”
However, at Aberystwyth there was less solidarity with staff at Lampeter.
At an AGM held on May 18, the UCU branch rejected the call to take part in any of the forms of strike action proposed by their union.
At the AGM, the majority of UCU members present expressed the view that pay was not the most serious issue facing staff at Aberystwyth University and that the proposed actions would be ineffective.
These opinions are summarised in the following motion, supported by the majority of attendees at the AGM:
“This Branch feels that the proposed strike action would be counterproductive in this institution, and that pay is not our primary issue. This association will leave participation to individual members”.
That motion was carried with two opposing and two abstentions.
As a result, the Local Association has decided not to form a strike committee to organise for the coming actions. Instead, officers, departmental representatives and other UCU activists will devote their time to other campaigns which have the support of the local membership.
A disappointed Aberystwyth academic told our reporter Kelvin Mason: “The Union has voted not to support the national strike locally. This is such a show of lack of solidarity to comrades in the union UK-wide. There was a national ballot on it in favour of strike action! The local UCU will be walked all over by management now.”
In addition to the action scheduled for this week, the proposed strike actions are:
- A further day of strike action in June or July aimed at creating maximum local disruption.
- Resignation from external examiner positions
- Work to contract
- Strike action on 18 August (when A Level results are released in England)
- Marking boycott