Exeter UCU express “disappointment” in Vice-Chancellor in lead up to strikes
A wave of University and College Union (UCU) strikes is set to take place in Exeter and across the country throughout February and March. In the lead-up to this extended period of action, Exeter UCU have expressed their “disappointment” in Vice-Chancellor Lisa Roberts for not meeting with Exeter UCU leaders or declaring a public position on these strikes.
The UCU have officially confirmed the dates of strike days throughout this period, with the first strike day set to take place Wednesday 1st February, and the final day of action to take place on Wednesday 22nd March. The full list of dates can be found on the UCU’s website.
This next wave of strike action comes less than three months after three days of national UCU strikes took place in November 2022. It will see an estimated 70 000 staff from 150 UK universities walk out of their jobs.
Exeter UCU spoke to Exeposé about their motivations to strike, stating: “UCU’s decision to call a further 18 days of strikes was the result of our employers’ continued unwillingness to address the various issues that have been negatively impacting our working conditions and our mental health, and the quality of the education we deliver to students. Even the recent pay proposal presented to the union’s negotiators will still leave us earning less in real terms than we earned two decades ago. This is not sustainable and is leading colleagues into debt and poor mental health due to lower real-terms income and impossible workloads.”
In response to this first wave of strikes and the threat of further strike action, the UCU were offered a five per cent pay rise by negotiators. Local and national UCU leaders, however, still argue that this is not enough to make up for the decrease in real times pay they have experienced over recent years. Exeter UCU have previously suggested that the decrease in real times pay over the last nine years amounts to a nearly 25 per cent drop. In response to these concerns around pensions, pay and working conditions, a University of Exeter spokesperson said: “We remain committed to being a great employer and to providing everyone who works here with an affordable and sustainable pension scheme, as well as fair pay and working conditions.”
This is not sustainable and is leading colleagues into debt and poor mental health due to lower real-terms income and impossible workloadsExeter UCU spokesperson
Exeter UCU also expressed disappointment that although “the management team at Exeter seems to privately understand our position,” Exeter UCU were “yet to meet with Vice-Chancellor Lisa Roberts to discuss the situation.”
Exeter UCU went on to criticise the Vice Chancellor further for not publicly stating her position on the strikes, stating: “We are also disappointed that the Vice-Chancellor has not taken a public position on the matter. Our disappointment is furthered by the knowledge that the Vice-Chancellor has a strong position both in the Russell Group and in Universities UK.”
When Exeter UCU were asked about students who have told Exeposé they have sympathy with the strikers, but are nonetheless worried about their studies in the face of further action, Exeter UCU stated, “We are not giving you the quality of education you deserve. The only thing we ask is that we are provided with the right conditions to give you the best education possible. This is something that, we’re sure, students also want. We invite students to lobby the university to push for a just resolution of this dispute.”
A spokesperson for the University of Exeter said: “Providing our students with an excellent educational experience is our highest priority and we are continuing to work closely with the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union to carefully manage the impact this period of further strike action may have on our University community, and to ensure any measures we put in place to protect our students’ experience and academic outcomes are the right ones for our students and their course.
Providing our students with an excellent educational experience is our highest priority and we are continuing to work closely with the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union to carefully manage the impact this period of further strike action may have on our University communityUniversity of Exeter spokesperson
A response group is working with Faculties and Professional Services and alongside representatives of the Students’ Guild and the Falmouth and Exeter Students’ Union, focussed on minimising disruption for students. We will keep our University community updated as the situation progresses and have developed a Frequently Asked Questions page so we can seek to answer any queries our students may have — we will keep this page updated throughout this period. We would remind students that the University and its campuses will be open and available throughout this period, and also highlight the resources that are available to support our students, if needed. This includes our self-help tools, SilverCloud and our Wellbeing Services at both the Exeter and Cornwall campuses.
As a University, we remain committed to being a great employer and to providing everyone who works here with an affordable and sustainable pension scheme, as well as fair pay and working conditions, as demonstrated by the recent decision to make positive changes to the pay scales of colleagues on grades B-F across the University.”
A spokesperson for the Students’ Guild said: “For the strike action days in November 2022, we held an all-student poll to gauge how students were feeling towards the strikes. The number of respondents was low and not representative of the student body, so we took the stance of supporting all students and their variety of views on the strikes. With the announcement of the 18 days of strike action, we will again be polling our students to inform our stance and actions. The Guild is student-led so we will ensure that students feel heard, supported and represented.”
Article from print issue 740.