Cardiff Uni strikes to begin next week, staff says no choice

Cardiff University staff will be striking next week as part of nationwide union strikes resulting from a union ballot.

Students are expected to join Cardiff University staff in the protests next week.

Staff at Cardiff University say they have no choice but to take industrial action in upcoming weeks to address pay cuts and working conditions.

Members of the University and College Union voted by 81.1% (working conditions ballot) and 84.9% (pensions ballot) to take action that will see them walk out of classrooms on Thursday and Friday next week.

“We’ve lost about 30% of the value of our pay since 2010,” says lecturer Dr Andy Williams. “Pay rises that we have had, haven’t kept up with inflation, which means that the value of what we get for the hard work that we do is just through the floor at the moment.”

Dr Williams who is a UCU member said, “We don’t want to go on strike, we don’t want to affect our students’ learning and education detrimentally, but we see that we have no other choice.”

This is the fourth such protest by the Cardiff UCU in successive years.

Dr Williams said, “Like all of those previous strikes the issues are the decreasing value of our pay. We’re also striking about casualised labour in universities. Teachers who are teaching are on very insecure employment conditions, and aren’t adequately looked after and rewarded for the work that they do.”

Cardiff UCU member and Lecturer, Ryan Davey said, “Casualised labour refers to a process where a workforce initially had secure or permanent contracts, employment contracts… then casualisation is where you go from that towards a situation where people have insecure employment.”

The staff will be protesting against alleged casualised labour and poor working conditions.

He said, “They might have short-term contracts, fixed-term contracts or variable contracts. So there’s a very low level of guaranteed income with that kind of contract. Another kind of casualised labour is where people don’t have a contract at all. They’re casual workers and they just get paid per hour and if they don’t do the hour, they don’t get anything.”

The UCU has alleged that the pension cuts made earlier this year will make the average member lose 35% of their guaranteed future retirement income, and asked employers to revoke the cuts.

Dr Williams said, “Those who are more junior again, are going to be hit the hardest. We’re all losing tens of thousands of pounds in our retirement because of unilateral decisions that have been made by the people that run the pensions part. With the oversight of our employers, the vice-chancellors, they’ve stolen a lot of our money.”

It’s the biggest mandate for strike action yet. Around about 60% of all of our members have voted on both of those ballots. This is going to be the biggest strike seen in UK higher education ever in history.”

Ryan Davey said, “I would love it if we only have to do two days or three days of striking, and our university and other universities would recognise our demands and negotiate and give us some more reasonable concessions to the demands that we’re making, it’s quite likely that we won’t achieve all of our demands within the next three days.

CUSU students will be supporting the protesting staff by providing hot drinks.

The Cardiff Students Union (CSU) has expressed its support for the UCU’s decision to go on strike.

A statement by the CSU read, “Staff working conditions are student learning conditions, and they are also the working conditions of our Postgraduate Research (PGR) students who teach. For this reason, we reaffirm our support behind these students by standing with UCU and by continuing to lobby for fairer contracts for PGR students who teach.”

Angie Flores Acuña, CSU VP Postgraduate said, “We’re standing in picket lines on the 24th, 25th and 30th of November. We are meeting up at nine am outside the CSL at the bottom of the students union, and we will be bringing hot water and drinks for the staff members that are in the picket lines.”

She said, “A lot of students will not be happy with them because it’s not what, they’re paying for. They’re paying for being here…So some students will not be happy but some others will understand what every, what is happening behind the scenes.”

The CSU has assured in its statement that the union will be lobbying for fee reimbursements for any lost contact hours owing to the strikes.