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Staff anger over UCU suspending strike action

By Odhran Gallagher

The University and College Union’s last-minute decision last Friday to halt upcoming strike action has been met with criticism and panic from some members, including UofG staff.

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced that it will pause strike action for the next two weeks, following “significant progress across a range of issues,” including pay and pension disputes for the UCU. Seven separated days of strike action which had been planned for the following fortnight are now cancelled.

The calling off of the strike at short notice has sparked anger and frustration amongst many staff, given that the decision was made without consulting the union’s membership. 

However, staff remain on “ASoS”, meaning “action short of strike”. The UCU defines this as a number of actions including “removing uploaded materials related to lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action, and a marking and assessment boycott.”

One UCU member criticised the fact that the news had broken on a Friday, giving little time to prepare for teaching in the coming week that was scheduled to not take place: “It’s about work I haven’t prepared for next week in anticipation of a strike action. I was prioritising meeting students and other urgent matters. With Monday taken up by dept [sic] meetings, I’ll spend my weekend preparing lectures for Tuesday.”

Another senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow, Kirsteen Paton, accused the UCU of “patronising paying members” in their responses to those who had criticised the decision. 

Some have also expressed concern at how the University management would respond to staff’s lack of preparedness following the suspension of the strike action, with one Glasgow lecturer stating: “if our employers are really negotiating in good faith they can demonstrate this by not pushing their luck and demanding miracles.”

Nicole Smith, a lecturer in Museum Education at UofG made reference to “those of us who are now scrabbling to be prepared for the pause in action.” Adding her advice for staff to “take care of yourselves and of others these next two weeks. Transparency with colleagues and students is key. We’re still on ASoS.”

Professor of Economic and Social History, Ewan Gibbs, said: “Don’t panic. Prepare teaching or any other work over the weekend. You withdrew your labour and you were right to and you won’t be paid for it. The union suspending industrial action doesn’t require that.”

The anger surrounding the decision has gone so far that Jo Grady, General Secretary of the UCU, has had her wikipedia page edited to describe her as a “traitor, Judas, [and] quisling”.

Some staff have responded to the news more favourably. University of Glasgow physicist Jay Howarth said: “I’m sorry but strikes can’t go ahead for the convenience of the members to the detriment of negotiations. Being able to suspend them at short notice is the biggest piece of leverage our negotiators have. And if a breakthrough comes on a Friday, that’s just when it comes.”

Another UofG senior lecturer wrote on Twitter in response to a critic of the decision: “Don’t work the weekend, work your normal Monday. Explain to students why you are less well prepared than usual on Tuesday. Blame UCEA & UUK for their tardiness.”


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