Post Graduate Students Officer: why I’m supporting the UCU strikes

After meeting with representatives from the University and College Union Birmingham (UCU), I would like to make a statement in solidarity with them in their current disputes. UCU are a trade union who proudly represent a large proportion of our academic teaching staff here at the University of Birmingham, this includes Postgraduate Researchers and Teaching Assistants, who are also represented by myself as Postgraduate Officer at the Guild of Students.

UCU are currently balloting to strike and this will be on the following demands:

  • A pay increase of 7.5% or £1,500 (whichever is greater)
  • A living wage for all staff.
  • Nationally agreed framework for action to close the gender pay gap by 2020.
  • Nationally-agreed framework for action on precarious contracts.
  • Nationally-agreed payment to recognise excessive workloads.

Negotiations have been attempted with Employers, but the final offer was incredibly limited with a 2% pay increase offered and minimal concessions on the casualisation of contracts and equality. Following this 82% of the membership balloted to reject the deal, leading to the formal ballot to strike currently underway. This ballot is currently underway in 147 universities, with the aim to take action in the autumn term.

The lack of support given to staff on casualised contracts and those with excessive workloads is worrying from the perspective of a postgraduate, and particularly Postgraduate Researchers and Teaching Assistants for a number of reasons. These students are the future of teaching and at this moment in time they lack prospects of a secure, fair, well paid employment with years of uncertainty and poor pay.

Alongside that, postgraduate teaching assistants are not being paid fully for the level of work they are putting in, with time they spend marking students work often unpaid and leaving them overworked.

I urge students to take the following actions to support our fellow postgraduate students and lecturers:

  1. Vote to take action: if you are currently a Postgraduate Researcher you are eligible for free full membership to UCU and have the right to vote in the ballot. Follow this link and select the “standard full membership” option to join.
  2. Talk to other students: inform your peers how taking action will help staff get a better deal and benefit students too.
  3. Be vocal: follow Birmingham UCU on social media and engage with their information – getting the word out is so important!

Nobody decides to take industrial action lightly and the ballot underway is the result of Universities UK failing to make meaningful negotiations with UCU. I am happy to answer any questions on the stance I have taken on this and can be contacted at if there are any questions.

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