Thank you to all those who contacted me about pay and conditions in higher education. I agree that all workers deserve decent pay, pensions and working conditions.
In March, UCU released its report, UK higher education: A workforce in crisis, which makes for shocking reading. It found that 60% of staff said that the lack of progress over pay and working conditions meant that they were likely to leave the sector in the next five years, reaching 81% for staff aged between 18 to 29.
When asked about the current strikes, the Government has responded to say that universities are autonomous and responsible for the pay and pension provision of their staff, and that it plays no role in such disputes. I am aware that the meeting between UCU and the University and College Employers Association on 13 December 2022 ended without agreement.
As a trade unionist and someone who has held a picket line, I support the right for people and unions to strike. It is an action of last resort but it is important that it is maintained. The Government should be seeking to moderate and help facilitate some sort of resolution.
I can appreciate that people feel angry at the Government failing to acknowledge the incredibly tough two years that workers have gone through. In addition, the sector for early career teaching staff is much more uncertain, with terms and conditions of employment often much more precarious. They are vital for institutions to prosper and I would like to see much greater security around their contracts.
I believe that universities must be treated as a public good, whose success and resilience depends on the hard work and commitment of the fantastic staff. Politicians of all parties should play a role in supporting institutions which have been at the heart of public and intellectual life in our country for centuries, and I am keen that we all work to support their success.