Arts SU supports the UCU strikes

Image credit: UCU_UAL

Here's what you need to know

UAL lecturers and tutors are joining 74 universities across the country who are going on strike to fight for fairer conditions in Higher Education.

The strike will take place for 14 days in total, spread across 4 weeks. It starts Thursday 20th February and continues until 13th March. The strike days are: 20th – 21st Feb (week 1); 24th – 26th Feb (week 2); 2nd – 5th March (week 3); 9th – 13th March (week 4).

There is an ongoing dispute taking place about the universities' failure to make improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads. Staff at UAL have voted in favour of taking strike action about the offer which has been made in response to the dispute about pay & conditions. An analysis of that offer from UCU general secretary Jo Grady is available here.

What does this mean?

A strike is when, as a result of unacceptable working conditions, members of a trade union collectively refuse to work, which means giving up their pay. Instead, they gather outside their workplaces to protest and raise awareness; these gatherings are called picket lines. The trade union for university lecturers is UCU. It is normally a last resort protest tactic used when negotiations between trade unions and management have stalled or failed. By disrupting the normal day-to-day running of the organisation, striking staff pressure management into agreeing to better working conditions on behalf of all staff. Staff do not normally make up work missed, so you may have some sessions with staff completely cancelled.

Why should I support the strikes?

The worsening conditions in Higher Education affect us all - poor working conditions mean poor learning conditions. The union is fighting back on behalf of students and staff alike, to build a better and fairer university for everyone. 

The Students' Union supports the strikes, and encourage our members to show support too. Here’s how you can:

  • Show solidarity and join the picket line! A picket line, is where striking staff stand outside a workplace and tell other people why they are striking, and asking people to join the strike/campaign. As a student you can join the picket line and protest beside staff - the bigger the disruption, the bigger the impact on the institution, the more likely the dispute is to be resolved.  
  • Write to your Vice Chancellor. As students, you have a powerful voice, and your support means a lot. If you support the striking staff and if you support better working and learning conditions at UAL, let the VC know! Nigel Carrington is the Vice Chancellor of UAL, and can be contacted at n.carrington@arts.ac.uk and vice-chancellor@arts.ac.uk Below is a template email you can use, and a list of email addresses.
  • Send emails to UAL Senior Management explaining how you have been impacted by the strikes. Demand that the university find fair and equitable ways to compensate students without punishing or asking striking staff to make up work missed through striking (as this would de-legitimise the strike)
  • Tweet your support using the hashtag #UCUstrike and tag @ArtsSU in your posts so we can share through our communications channels.
  • Above all, be supportive of staff on strike. They don’t want to be on strike either. This action is a last resort to protect the standards of higher education, and the issues under dispute affect students and staff – poor working conditions mean poor learning conditions. It is natural to feel angry or upset, we all do, but channel your anger towards those who are allowing the conditions that force staff members into this position

Worried about the strikes?

It can be stressful for students to hear that staff they interact with on a daily basis are unhappy at work, or sometimes students can be worried that their own work may be affected by the strikes.

There are two main issues you might face as a direct result of the strikes:

  • Lost Teaching Time
  • The strikes might mean you have no teaching on the days that UCU has designated for the strike. We would encourage you to speak to staff on your course in the first instance to see if some way to mitigate the impact of the time lost teaching.
  • If a suitable arrangement can not be met with your course team you can raise this issue through UAL's complaints procedure. You can read more about this here. Arts SU Advice can support you to raise the complaint with UAL.
  • Impact on an Assessment 
  • The strikes may impact on your ability to complete or hand in your assessment. Again, we would encourage you to speak to staff on your course in the first instance to see if some way to mitigate the impact of on your assignment.
  • We are working with UAL to establish a process to raise where an assessment is directly impacted by strikes, please get in touch with our advice team and we can advise you further on what to do what to do next. 

If you are a Course Rep receiving a lot of questions about the strikes, please direct people to the Advice Service, or if you want to, we can support you to co-ordinate group complaint on behalf of your course.

Students' Union Staff and the Strikes

Arts SU is a separate organisation to UAL, and our staff members’ terms and conditions are different from UAL. So, whilst we support the strikes, our staff members will not be striking.

We encourage Arts SU staff not to cross the picket lines and we will let them know where they can work during the strikes, so as not to undermine the striking staff. We ask that striking UAL staff respect this differentiation and do not pressure our staff if they have to cross a picket line.

Template email:

Dear Senior Manager,

I am writing to you as a UAL student to express my views on the UCU strikes.

While strike action is difficult for us students, as it disrupts our already stressful classes and assessments, I firmly believe this action is necessary as we need to challenge universities to become better employers that value and respect their staff.

As students, we are losing out on what we expected when we joined the university - but the buck of this does not fall on our staff themselves. I stand in solidarity with UAL staff and am asking you to find a satisfactory resolution to the issues raised by the trade unions.

Research from the UCU (University and College Union) has shown that across the university sector, more than half of academics are employed on precarious contracts, pay has fallen by 17% in the last 10 years and there is still an astonishing 15.9% gender pay gap. As universities, we should be in the lead to be equitable institutions, where everyone can work, learn and study to their highest ability. Surely conditions like these only set us back?

UAL is one of the best arts institutions in the world, and our chancellor - Sir Nigel Carrington - has been recognised by the Queen for his services, sits on the board of the Creative Industries Federation and on the Universities UK Board. We believe that he should use his considerable influence to improve working conditions for all staff across the higher education sector, starting with UAL.

I believe everyone deserves fair pay and working conditions. I fully support UCU in their strike action and their reasons for striking and hope an equitable solution for all parties can be found quickly. I implore you to take immediate action to bring these strikes to an end, by instructing those who negotiate on your behalf to back down from imposing the terms they’ve arrived at and re-engage with the UCU.

Yours faithfully,

__________ (Your name)

Email addresses:

Nigel Carrington n.carrington@arts.ac.uk
Simon Ofield Kerr s.ofieldkerr@arts.ac.uk
Natalie Brett n.brett@lcc.arts.ac.uk
Roni Brown roni.brown@fashion.arts.ac.uk
David Crow d.crow@arts.ac.uk
Stephen Marshal s.d.marshall@arts.ac.uk
Jeremy Till j.till@csm.arts.ac.uk
Edward Venning e.venning@arts.ac.uk
Naina Patel n.patel@arts.ac.uk
Stephen Reid s.reid@arts.ac.uk

Get in touch

If you'd like to get involved or have any questions please email one of the following:

Education Officer, Anita Israeleducation@su.arts.ac.uk