The Socialist 10 December 2008 |
Join the Socialist
Unite against university attacks
In response to continual attacks by Sussex University management, this time aimed at associate tutors (ATs), a rally was held against plans to "casualise" the workforce.
Lee Vernon and Sarah Wrack
Over 100 staff and students gathered in the centre of campus, supported fully by the students union and UCU. ATs are facing real cuts to their pay whilst their workloads are increased. ATs are PhD students, retired lecturers and academics. They are vital to undergraduates' learning, being responsible for a large majority of seminars and support for students. Their workload includes reading and preparing for seminars as well as guiding seminar discussions and marking essays. The university puts them at a grade 5 pay level, which is not even a teaching level grade.
ATs speaking at the rally stressed that because they care about their students and about the university, they have been doing extra work without pay. However, for many, this is simply no longer financially viable. The pay cut has been coupled with the introduction of 'zero-hour' contracts, with no promise of work or pay, giving staff no job security. It was recognised at the rally that this is all part of a wider attack on education, evident in colleges and universities across the country.
Sasha Callaghan, UCU national president summed up the anger at this when she said: "Universities are not businesses, students are not customers".
Only weeks after Unite were on strike, management are trying to cut costs by attacking the most poorly paid and organised members of staff. ATs need to link up and fight with Unite and push for Unison to join the struggle.
The government has been starving higher education institutions for years and it has become more and more necessary to rely on international students' fees and income from the private sector.
With the UCU pay review and discussion on the future of higher education funding coming up next year, government and management will be relying on tactics of divide and conquer which we must counter by linking up struggles on our campuses and within our unions.