'We are on your side' - Politicians show support for striking university staff in Sheffield

Several politicians stood on the steps of Sheffield City Hall today to show solidarity with striking university staff.

By Molly Williams, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 28th November 2019, 5:02 pm
Updated Friday, 29th November 2019, 10:24 am

Lecturers, librarians, administrators, support services staff, technicians and admissions tutors from both Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield are striking for eight days over a number of issues including pay, pensions and working conditions.

Hundreds joined pickets across the city so far this week and crowds also gathered at Barker's Pool for a rally.

A number of speakers gave their support including Jo Grady, general secretary of the trade union UCU, staff and student representatives as well as local politicians.

Sheffield Heeley parliamentary candidate Louise Haigh was among the politicians who showed their support for striking university staff

Councillor Olivia Blake, candidate for Sheffield Hallam and former student at Sheffield University, said she had been out joining staff on pickets around the city.

She said "I know all the Labour councillors are fully supporting you in your actions so please take heart that we are on your side and we are completely behind you in this fight and struggle.

"I am absolutely appalled at the way our higher education system has been marketised and I think it's absolutely crucial that we take that out.”

Baroness Natalie Bennett, former leader of the Green Party and peer, told the rally: "It is crucial to give you security with decent pay, decent pensions and ending zero hours contracts.”

Dr Sam Marsh, president of Sheffield UCU, said: “I think universities are starting to realise just how bad things are but they’re not prepared to take action on it yet. The solution on the one hand is simple: they need to hire more staff and on secure terms. The problem is from their point of view is that costs money and they’re being really resistant to put that money in.”

The University of Sheffield is one of 42 universities nationally where staff are striking over pay and pensions, while Sheffield Hallam is one of 14 where workers are taking action over wages and conditions.

The eight days will be followed by action short of a strike, in which staff will work only to contract and refuse to reschedule missed lectures or undertake work missed during the walkout.

A Sheffield Hallam University spokesperson said: “The university will remain open during this period of industrial action.

“While we will make every effort to minimise disruption for students and the wider university community through alternative arrangements, we acknowledge that activities could be affected.

“We are keeping students informed of the latest information, but we are keen to stress that the university, our library, help desks and other student services will remain open as normal during this time.”

Professor Koen Lamberts, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “We understand that many staff at universities across the UK have concerns around pay and pensions and we are working in partnership with trade union colleagues to see what more can be done locally and to use our influence to try to shape the national debate. We are keen to find a meaningful negotiated solution so we can end the disputes and any further disruption.”