Pay slash for striking staff

Students have reacted with anger to news that University staff are having two hours pay deducted for participating in strikes this month.

Staff at Brookes are also losing a full day’s pay despite only striking for two hours. The UCU, the academics’ union, is demanding a 3% pay rise.

The UCU also indicated that it may launch a legal challenge “to recoup unfairly unpaid wages”.

Strikes have so far taken place on 23rd January and 28th January. Further strikes are planned for 9am to 11am on Monday 10th February, and the Union has warned of further strikes and a “marking boycott” if a solution is not reached.

A University spokesperson said: “The University respects the right of individuals to take part in lawful industrial action.”

“Oxford University will be deducting two hours’ pay for a two-hour stoppage,” he added. The University also said on its website that it “reserves its right to withhold a full day’s pay in respect of any future partial performance”, and encouraged the staff concerned to submit information to the Payroll Office.

“The dispute is between the UCU and the University only. College employees are not being asked to take part in industrial action, while those holding joint appointments are not being asked to take part in industrial action except in respect of their university duties,” it also said.

Brookes’ full-day pay cut has come under fire with activist Peter Tatchell condemned the move at Brookes as “unfair”.

The strikes may not be fully over yet. “Further action is planned if a satisfactory improvement in the employers’ offer is not forthcoming and may include a boycott of examination marking,” a UCU spokesperson said.

She went on to say that “Times Higher Education has reported that UK vice-chancellors received an average increase in salary of 7.7 per cent in 2012-13, with the rises for Russell Group heads in England being even higher at an average 9.5 per cent.”

“Staff received an increase of 1% in the same year.”

Student reaction to the move was mixed. Olivia Arigho Stiles, a third-yearyear History student at        Somerville who is involved in the Support Our Staff, condemned it as “appalling”.

“The practice of docking striking workers’ pay is appalling and one that all students and workers should deplore. It is an attack on the legitimate right to withdraw labour in exceptional circumstances,” she said.

However a Magdalen PPEist supported docking strikers’ wages, claiming: “While I’m no expert, I thought you had to do your job to get paid for it”.

Similarly, a Queen’s second-year student said: “The University is absolutely within its rights to make this move. It was a perfectly legimitate decision: the authorities are within their rights to withhold pay when someone does not work.”

“Not only is it a legal, contractual issue, it is also basic economics – people work for their pay, and if they don’t work, they should not be paid.”

UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt said: “Any kind of disruption is always a last resort but, after five years of pay suppression and members 13% worse off in real terms, we have little option but to continue our action”

“Despite another embarrassing round of revelations about the very handsome pay rises those at the very top have enjoyed recently, universities are still refusing to improve a miserly 1% pay offer and are still oblivious to the hypocrisy of their actions,” she said.

21 Oxford academics attended the protest outside Oxford University’s Administration and Services building in Wellington Square and a further 13 demonstrated outside the St Cross Building.

At the protest, retired English lecturer and union spokesman Terry Hoad told the Oxford Mail: “The university has the money to pay a decent increase.”

Alba Kapoor, a first-year History and Politics student and OUSU’s newly-elected Black & Minority Ethnic Students’ & Anti-Racism Officer, advocated expanding the wage campaign to non-teaching staff.

She also defended the strike: “Lots of junior academics literally cannot afford to live in Oxford. Firstly, this negatively impacts students because Oxford won’t be able to attract high quality junior teaching staff. More importantly, it’s just unfair for the low paid lecturers”.