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University saved £392k through striking staff salaries

Strike action will take place in week 7-10 of this term, despite the University's claims that “Education continues to be our main priority and we will do all that we can to minimise any disruption to teaching, learning and research.”

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Image Credit: Magnus Hagdorn

Nouse can exclusively reveal that the amount of money saved by the University during the strike action of November 2019 stands at an approximate £392,000. This revelation comes just a week after the UCU announced a further 14 days of strike action, just under double the length of time of last November’s eight-day action.

In response to the 2017 strikes, the University offered graduating students in the two subsequent summers free graduation gown rental and two free print runs for dissertations. Nouse asked the University about the legitimacy of withholding staff pay and not refunding students for the teaching time lost to strike action, questioning what the University was planning to do with the money saved from not paying staff during strike periods. We asked: “the University won’t be paying tutors, tutors won’t be teaching, therefore why should students pay the University to study when this service is not being fully provided?”

The University responded with very little information directly relating to the line of questioning we pursued. They responded to Nouse “a decision has not been made yet but it will be a decision made in consultation with the students’ union. “The University is working hard to minimise any disruption to the student experience. “We fully respect the rights of colleagues to take industrial action, but we are also fully committed to reducing the impact on teaching. “Education continues to be our main priority and we will do all that we can to minimise any disruption to teaching, learning and research.”

The lack of clarity on the situation, and the vagueness of the statement provided by the University to Nouse will inevitably be received with a level of annoyance among students, as the uncertainty of the issue continues on despite it having been prevalent for nearly three years.

There have been three major petitions which have been created by students each time lecturers have gone on strike. During the first strike action in 2017, a petition circulated demanding a blanket £300 reimbursement for lost teaching time, reaching 6,115 signatories. Following the November 2019 strikes, a second petition was circulated, currently standing at over 1,900 signatories, of which around 500 are new signatories in response to upcoming action due later this term. A third petition, directly in response to the upcoming action, currently stands at over 800 signatories.

The latest petition, started by a user named ‘UoY students’, asks the University “why should we have to pay for education that we are not receiving?” One disgruntled student in their final year voiced his anger at the lack of action from the University on the petition page. The student wrote “I have lost weeks education because the University hasn’t taken ownership and responsibility for their actions. “I fully support my lecturers and their right to strike, I do not however; support the response from the University in regards to this issue. I have lost a significant amount of money due to the University not meeting or even compromising with the UCU, therefore I demand reimbursement.”

As things stand, the only current confirmed strike action will begin in Week 7 of this term, with lecturers on the picket lines on Thursday 20 February and Friday 21 February. In Week 8, Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Thursday 26 February will be affected. Week 9 will see Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March lost to striking; while Week 10 will be entirely empty because of the industrial action.

The UCU made their position extremely clear in a statement which accompanied the announcement of strike action, in which they said “[the UCU] have been clear from the outset that we would take serious and sustained industrial action if that was what was needed. As well as the strikes next month, we are going to ballot members to ensure that we have a fresh mandate for further action to cover the rest of the academic year if these disputes are not resolved.”

The prospect of yet more strikes during this academic year, in addition to this term’s lost teaching time, will undoubtedly cause nervousness among the student body. Particularly the prospect of the business end of the academic year, a period containing dissertation hand-ins, examinations and other summative assessments being completed. During the previous strikes, YUSU officially supported striking lecturers and members of the University and College Union staff in their dispute with the University over pay and pension matters.

It is as yet unknown whether YUSU will again support the industrial action, however a student survey was circulated by YUSU in the wake of the UCU announcement, which is due to close tomorrow (Wednesday 12 February). As soon as the official YUSU position is known, Nouse will endeavour to relay the information to our readers.

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