By Ciaran Lockhart
Lecturers and support staff at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus, have been on strike this week. They walked out on Monday at the start of eight days of industrial action. Roughly 60 universities across the UK are taking part in various forms of strike action.
The dispute between staff and university management, centres around pension payments. University & College Union (UCU) have claimed that changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), will leave members paying in more and receiving less in retirement. UCU have also said that excessive workloads, cases of casualisation and pay inequality have also led to the walk-out by staff.
Goretti Horgan, lecturer at Ulster University, from the picket line, said that “One-third of all teaching at the university is done by people on precarious, part-time, temporary contracts. It’s unfair to students and to the teaching staff. On average, in the university sector, women are paid as much as 18 per cent less than their male counterparts. Unless the employers start to negotiate seriously, there may be more strikes after Christmas.”
Collette Cassidy, Vice President of Magee Students’ Union said that a ‘strike stress’ campaign has been implemented to support students during the eight days of strike action.
“We are working with the university to make sure mitigations will be put in place for any disruption caused over the next eight days” she said. Ms. Cassidy also said that a policy passed by the student council recently, establishes their support for the lecturers on strike and for their reasons for striking.
As part of the strike, several lectures on a range of topics were given at the Nerve Centre in Derry on Tuesday. Under the title ‘Alternative University.’
Speaking at the event, Dr Emmett O’Connor, another lecturer at Ulster University, said “The idea is to bring staff together, share ideas and illustrate the kind of things we do.”
Commenting further on the strikes, he said: “We hope there won’t be any need for further strikes. But the way things are going that also seems unlikely, so I think we have to be prepared to keep continuing to fight.”
Another day of Alternative University talks are planned for Thursday November 28 from 2.30-4.30, in the Nerve Centre. The staff strike is due to end on Wednesday December 4.