As you have no doubt heard by now, university staff across the UK, led by the University and College Union (UCU) are preparing to carry out a ‘marking boycott’ as part of an ongo- ing dispute about staff pay in higher and further education. This follows on from a number of day long strikes throughout this academic year.
UCU negotiates nationally with the employers’ body, the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA) over pay and conditions for academic and research staff and for academic-related staff, so this is not a dispute directly with the University of St Andrews.
The claim UCU submitted in 2013 addressed a number of areas of con- cern including pay, the erosion of job security and the entrenchment of inequality in the higher and further education sector. It asked for pay increases to be in line with inflation, measures to address the gender pay gap, and all staff paid hourly to be put on the national pay spine.
The offer UCU received did not meet these requests, so its mem- bers (as well as those of Unison and Unite) went out on a series of strikes, to show they were serious about negotiating on these important issues.
The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) voted in favour of supporting the staff strikes back in November, citing the importance of our university community and the welfare and security of our staff as long-term reasons to deal with the potential short-term disruption of the one day strikes.
We reiterated the importance of fair pay in the SRC last week when we debated the marking boycott. It was decided that as a student community, we still firmly believed in the principles of fair pay in higher edu- cation. However, students across the room at that meeting and across our town hold differing opinions about the appropriateness of the marking boycott as a means to an end.
We are therefore instead focusing our efforts on pressuring the University to reflect on the ethics of the growing pay discrepancy, and on supporting individual students making their own representations to the University on the marking boycott, whether in support or not.
Supporting this call for fair pay is important not just because we as students should care about our staff and wider community, but because it also directly affects postgraduate students, and post-docs who are just starting out as academics.
The vast majority of the postgrads who work as our tutors and lab sup- port staff are paid hourly instead of on a fixed contract and pay spine, and are also those most directly af- fected by the real terms pay cut cre- ated by not being paid in line with inflation.
We hope that the marking boycott does not take place. It will affect Scottish universities first because our exams and graduations are that much earlier than the rest of the UK, and will disproportionately affect St Andrews because of our high international student numbers. And we hope the marking boycott does not take place because UCEA recognises that it has to take the call for fair pay seriously.
This is our last sabb diary for The Saint (sad face) but you can read more from us on the sabb blog, which we promise to update! You can find it at http://yourunion. net/blogs/blog/sabb%20blog.
The new sabbatical team take over on 1 July so look forward to new faces and big plans for next semester.