Image Credit: YUSU
YUSU’s Officer group has made the decision to support striking UCU lecturers, according to a statement on its website today. The decision follows weeks of speculation regarding the intended position of the Students’ Union, as well as a consultation, both in person last Friday, and through a survey released this week. Officers likely wanted to distance themselves from Union policy during the last strikes, which was strictly neutral.
The statement admits that although the issue of the University staff walkout is “complex”, the vote by students in YUSU’s poll had a clear majority in favour of action. With 532 students responding, 67.3 per cent said that they supported the strikes, whilst 22.2 per cent voted against. 10.5 per cent had no preference. YUSU’s statement concluded that “due to the strength of feeling from students” the Union would “stand in solidarity with striking staff and postgraduate students who are members of UCU in support of them in their action.”
The statement also includes advice on how to support lecturers. Union Officers will provide those on the picket line with hot drinks, and staff will be open to discussion and questions during the various physical protests across campus across areas likely to have heavy footfall. Last year, Nouse was able to interview lecturers striking outside Heslington Hall (where much of York’s senior management is based) as well as the library.
Additionally, YUSU said it would be placing pressure on the University to mitigate the impact on students, as previous sabbatical officers James Durcan and James Hare did last year through the ‘equity of provision’ scheme. The scheme re-allocated withheld University staff pay towards buying lab coats for scientific students, and dissertation binding, among other things.
Despite YUSU’s firm support, the University has yet to make a statement clearly in support of action. Although the Vice-Chancellor has said in a statement that he was able to “understand” the sentiment of the strikes, management has stopped short in past weeks of arguing, as the management of Exteter and others have argued, that the strikes are legitimate, and change is needed in pay and working conditions for lecturers.
In response to a Nouse request for comment on the matter earlier this week, a University spokesperson said “York, like many HE institutions, uses different types of flexible employment to meet changing demands. Departments are offered guidance on the use of casual; fixed term and temporary contracts to ensure that the most appropriate employment arrangements are made. The issue of temporary contracts is a sector-wide issue and is something the University is looking at.”
Pending a huge shift in warmth of negotiations between lecturers, and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA,) strikes will go ahead in week nine, and continue for part of week ten.