Published: 19th February, 2020
The following was issued to news media outlets in Leicester on Wednesday 19 Febuary.
Tomorrow (February 20) lecturers, researchers and professional services staff at University of Leicester (members of the University and College Union) will walk out on the first of 14 days of strike action. They will be joined by colleagues at De Montfort, Loughborough and 71 other universities across the UK.
At a meeting last week, University of Leicester managers offered the union a deal. If strikers refrained from demonstrating on campus, then pay deductions would be spread over three months – an offer bosses described as “generous”. The University’s leadership also requested that employees report their strike action using HR’s special online form.
Employers have previously agreed, without bribery, to deduct over a period of time and the union has fully complied with its legal reporting requirements.
Members of Leicester UCU – who were consulted via an electronic ballot – have now decisively rejected this deal.
Numerous members expressed their upset and shock at being called on to make such a choice, describing managers’ offer as “ridiculous”, “aggressive” and “punitive”. One comment summed up the view of many: “Campuses belong to those who move around them not to those who are getting paid loads to manage them.” Another respondent suggested this is an opportunity for University of Leicester’s new vice-chancellor to show that he cares about staff; this respondent also promised to “buy in extra doughnuts” if campus demonstrations go ahead.
In previous strikes (in February and March 2018 and in November and December 2019) there have been lively pickets at all of the University’s main entrances, followed by a lunchtime march around the campus, culminating in a rally outside the Fielding Johnson Building, where the VC and his team have their offices. Following Leicester UCU members’ decision, this pattern looks set to continue over the next 3½ weeks.
Since the deal concerned strike reporting as well as campus disruption, the rejection of this deal by Leicester UCU members means that managers also now face the prospect of gathering, collating and processing up to 10,000 individual letters, emails, postcards and chits from employees, each one declaring they were on strike for a different day. Leicester UCU has prepared its own online system to help members report in this way.
There are several issues that UCU are in dispute over. They include pensions, pay, job security, workloads and the gender pay gap. Pay has fallen by almost 20% in real terms over the past decade, whilst staff are working harder and longer than ever before. By some counts half of all university employees are on casualised contracts, a situation replicated at University of Leicester. University of Leicester’s gender pay gap is one of the worst in the country, with women paid 23% less than men on average in 2018/19.