The University and College Union has announced its intention to go on strike on three occasions over the next month.
It follows on from two days on industrial action on 31 October and 3 December by the UCU, Unite and Unison which closed several campus services. They are still in dispute with the University over a 1% pay rise at a time when senior staff, such as the Vice Chancellor, are receiving pay rises.
The announced dates are Thursday 23 January, Tuesday 28 January and Monday 10 February. They will however not be for the duration of the day and will only occur for two hours in those days, 11am-1pm, 2-4pm and 9-11am respectively. There has already been controversy amongst the student population at the news that a strike will occur during exam season.
This marks a change in strategy for the Unions who are now aiming to strike during the busiest periods of the day to cause maximum disruption to the University and its students while minimising the financial cost to staff of strike action.
During the action, the University believes that all libraries and catering outlets will remain open and that the Early Years Centre and the Uni-link bus service will run unaffected. However, UCU are telling their members to withhold telling the University if they are striking in a bid to cause maximum disruption. Students are advised to attend lectures during this time as normal unless informed that their lecture will not occur through emails and noticeboards or your Student Office on the day.
In a blog post the University said:
Colleagues and students may be aware that UCU has indicated an intention for their members to take industrial action that will affect university campuses across the UK… The University will endeavour to maintain the excellent education experience it provides to its students. The University’s Business Continuity And Planning Group is assessing the situation and staff will be kept informed of arrangements.
Meanwhile Dr Eric Silverman, President of Southampton UCU said:
The current situation at the University of Southampton beggars belief. The vice-chancellors is one of the best-paid university bosses in the UK, yet he says he won’t support a pay rise for staff. Our salary bill has been bloated by the hiring of yet more high-level managers, while staff who actually do the lecturing, research, and administrative work that supports and enables students are expected to take another pay cut. We have had five years of real-terms pay cuts, we have around 200 lecturers on zero-hours contracts and we have 140 staff at the university earning below the living wage, some of whom are forced to depend on food banks to get by. We regret having to take more disruptive action, but we are left with no other option.
SUSU has also made a comment on the strike and will not be supporting the first strike. The decision was taken by the Sabbatical team given the absence of a Union Council meeting. Decisions on the other strikes will be taken by Education Committee and Union Council. In a statement, SUSU President David Gilani said:
SUSU believes that this industrial action will severely affect the student experience and therefore we cannot support it. To help lessen the detriment to students, SUSU will be liaising with trade unions to give feedback on how previous strikes have affected our members. We also will continually work with the University of Southampton to help develop better conditions for our postgraduate students who are also staff.
The Wessex Scene will keep you updated as events progress.
Update on 23 January strike:
The first of the three planned strikes between 11am and 1pm on the 23 January went ahead. It was a noticeably smaller gathering with around 30 staff gathering first on the red brick area before moving to outside the Student Services Centre, and a handful of staff congregating outside the Staff Social Centre. In contrast with previous strikes, horns did not make an appearance and shouting was also kept to a minimum, perhaps to improve the image of the strikers in the eyes of the students. Despite the smaller gatherings, the strikes did feature as news in local newspaper the Daily Echo and in the news bulletins of BBC South Today.