November 9, 2022 9.15 pm This story is over 17 months old

Lincoln set to take part in largest university strike ever

The biggest ever higher education strike in the UK

By Local Democracy Reporter

Two Lincoln universities are likely to join the biggest ever higher education strike in the UK, as over 70,000 staff announced three days of industrial action this month, which are likely to result in cancelled or rearranged lectures for students.

Both the University and Lincoln and Bishop Grosseteste University will be affected by the strike action over pay and conditions, though on the UCU website it states that both of Lincoln’s universities are yet to support pension strikes.

Following disputes over pay, pensions and working conditions, the University and College Union (UCU) has called three strike days in November to highlight their concerns.

The strike dates have been scheduled for Thursday, November 24, Friday, November 25 and Wednesday, November 30 – with around 150 universities affected.

The union is calling for a pay packet that fairly reflects the rising cost of living and inflation, after an initial 3% pay rise, with 9% going to the lowest earners, was rejected.

The UCU’s general secretary Jo Grady warned universities that if they don’t “get serious” this will be “just the beginning” for strike action in the further education workforce.

Controversy between Lincoln SU and UCU

A large crowd seen outside the Students’ Union during an event in support of Ukraine. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

A referendum has been called by the University of Lincoln Students’ Union to see if students in the city, and the union itself, support lecturers in joining this strike.

The vote needs just 10% of students to agree in order for it to be carried through, but a highly controversial decision by the Students’ Union prompted questions of how fair this vote will be.

The SU reportedly denied a request for the local chair of the University and College Union to attend a debate at the Engine Shed on Monday, blocking the opportunity for a UCU representative to explain the reasons behind strike action directly to students.

Dr Owen Clayton, Branch Chair of the Lincoln UCU, told The Lincolnite that it was “deeply concerning” that a referendum was called without the SU allowing students to hear from the “very organisation the referendum is about”.

Dr Clayton organised a staff-student forum, which took place at the Cargill Lecture Theatre at 12pm on Wednesday, November 9.

He said: “When I have pressed the SU on this, they claimed that it was against their rules, though when I have looked at their by-laws, I do not see anything about an external speaker being not allowed.

“When further pressed the SU said I was not allowed because of ‘precedence’, which seems to implicitly admit that there is no rule against allowing an external speaker and that they are in fact making a conscious choice to exclude me.

“They did say we could have a speaker if they were both a student and a member of UCU. However, we have very few members who are also students.

“Our PGR representative, who is both, was unavailable that evening due to the short notice given. In any case, as Branch Chair I am much better placed to talk about what the campaign is about and why students ought to support their lecturers.”

Lincoln Students’ Union said: “We held an event on Monday 7th November in The Platform, where students were invited to debate the Proposals put forward on in our UCU Referendum in order to help inform their decision-making when voting.

“Student representatives for both sides of the debate were invited to take part, which included student members of the UCU. As stated in our By-Laws, this event need only be open to our student members. This By-Law (8.3) can be read here.

“We additionally published a statement provided by Dr Clayton on behalf of the UCU, a statement provided by the University and statements from the students on both sides of our in-person debate on our website at the point at which students voted to guarantee they had access to the full context surrounding the Referendum, to ensure a fair voting process.”

The National Union of Students has already backed the strikes, so it is now a case of waiting to see if Lincoln will follow suit.

A spokesperson for the University of Lincoln said: “The university’s priority will always be to put students first. Our focus will be on minimising disruption to teaching and the student experience.

“The mandate for industrial action at 150 universities follows UCU’s rejection of the university employers’ offer of a 3% pay uplift for all staff and 9% for staff on lower salaries.

“The union is seeking a settlement of 2% above the current rate of inflation, namely an award of 12%.

“At Lincoln, as in several other universities, we implemented the offered pay increase this summer so all staff could benefit from a pay rise and so we could set our budgets for the 2022/23 academic year.”

Bishop Grosseteste University has been contacted for a comment.

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