UCU Strikes, we have been here before- but what next?

On Monday 24th February, it happened, again. The UCU launched fourteen days of strike action. Last term from Monday 25th November- Wednesday 4th December, round one of strike action commenced, with a vote held by the Students Union concluding ‘70% of eligible voters, voted to support UCU’s strike action and its stance in its entirety’. This forms a consensus that the student body is on the side of the UCU, which means our anger is turned to Paul Layzell and the college.

Striking lecturers do not enjoy, I assume, missing work to stand outside in the cold and rain, moping about with no students to pester, losing their income- so what provokes this action? The strikes are protesting on issues regarding contributors to pension schemes, with the UCU calling for the university (employer) and not the lecturers (employees), to cover the deficit. The second disagreement is on pay and working conditions, the UCU believes pay has dropped for academic staff by 17% in real wages since 2009, based on findings from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA). The working conditions element of the dispute focus on gender and BAME pay gap, increased casualisation of staff contracts and increased workloads. These are the exact same reasons lecturers walked out in November 2019, according to the UCU ‘the employers only agreed to properly discuss casualisation, workload and inequality arising from our decision to strike in November 2019. While their offer does represent progress, it is not enough, and they have now said their latest proposal is final – just as they did last May!’

Now, for a university which boasts of its history entrenched in women’s liberation, proclaiming through a very expensive four floor library, that Emily Wilding Davison herself attended the college (for one term until she could no longer afford the fees), the issues surrounding pay disparity is surely a huge embarrassment for this institution. Paul Layzell, what is going on? Well, we all know of Paul’s comments made back in November 2017 in a staff meeting, stating women have a  “natural tendency to not have a go and put themselves in for promotion”. Furthermore, his comments came after figures released by Times Higher Education (THE) revealed the university has a 10% gender pay gap for full-time professors,  making it the seventh worst in the country.

This questions the integrity of Mr Layzell to effectively address the strike action, how can we trust Layzell to support the rights of women and BAME academics if he can make these claims? As stated by the UCU, the universities had deemed their latest proposal their final after the November batch of strikes, however on the 5th March the UCU realised their latest update stating ‘It’s clear that most employers have changed their position since our last dispute over USS. They are now willing to agree with us on a range of issues. The two reports of the Joint Expert Panel have vindicated our position.’ This is a glimmer of hope for students and striking staff,  with more talks taking place on the 6th March, could this be the last we see of the strikes?

As we prepare for the last five days of strikes, the progress of negotiations are imperative to how the next academic year will look. As a third year student who lost most of first year and now third year to strikes, based on the findings by the UCU and many conversations with striking lecturers, there is no short term fix. If the college and the UCU do not reach agreement by the end of this strike period, there can certainly be expectations that next academic year will look the same. The issues raised by lecturers and the UCU are not to be overlooked, and shake to the core the integrity of many high ranking universities, including Royal Holloway. What message is a university giving to its students if it cannot facilitate an environment of equality within its staff? How am I expected to trust the university on matters such as sexual harassment and discrimination if the university does not address pay disparity between its staff, and the structural, institutionalized, inequality at the centre of this disparity? Paul Layzell, it is time for change; and no matter the individual stances on strike action, the calls for change being made by the UCU are valid, and do deserve student support. Students and lecturers make this institution what it is, and we can shape it to how we see fit.

Everyone hopes there is an end to this strike action, but if conditions are not met, there must be student outcry against the injustices faced by academics at this institution, and the lack of reparations by the university to students missing an invaluable, expensive, education.

Written by Sarah Tennent

Sources:

https://www.su.rhul.ac.uk/news/article/surhul/UCU-Referendum-Result/https:/

/www.ucu.org.uk/media/10714/Pre-strike-negotiators-briefing-for-members–four-fights-11-Feb-20/pdf/ucu_fourfights_pre-strike-briefing_11feb20-.pdf

https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/10667/Negotiations-update-more-USS-talks-on-Friday

The Political Mess in Brazil Following ‘Operation Car Wash’

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By Christian Oliver

It would surely be an understatement to deem Brazil’s political climate leading up to the October general election to be anything but dramatic and unpredictable. Presidential nominees have been stabbed, convicted for corruption, imprisoned, and have called for violent attacks on the opposition; all as a by-product of a corruption scandal bigger than ‘Watergate’.

Continue reading “The Political Mess in Brazil Following ‘Operation Car Wash’”

The Paradise Papers: Central to Society

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By Sarah Jasem

The Paradise Papers are 13.4 million leaked documents spanning the period between 1950 to 2016, which reveal the extent to which the assets of corporations like Facebook, and wealthy public figures from the Queen to Harvey Weinstein, are held offshore where they can be unregulated and untaxed. Almost 7 million of these documents are related to a law firm called ‘Appleby’, filled with lawyers who specialise in registering trusts and companies in overseas jurisdictions with little to no tax rates such as the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda and Mauritius. The leaks were passed on from German Newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, ICIJ. Similarly, in 2016, the same newspaper leaked 11 million documents to the ICIJ where the tax avoidance was orchestrated not be Appleby but by Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in Panama, hence the 2016 leak being marked, ‘The Panama Papers’. Continue reading “The Paradise Papers: Central to Society”

Comparing ‘populist’ revolutions: Ukraine and Egypt

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By Vladimir Ivlev

“The ultimate difference between a truly radical emancipatory politics and populist politics is that the former is active, it imposes and enforces its vision, while populism is fundamentally re-active, the result of a reaction to a disturbing intruder.” – Slavoj Žižek, “First As Tragedy, Then As Farce” (2008)

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the overreaching Soviet social and political structure was replaced with swift liberalization of the markets and a bright promise of democracy. Yet, ironically, the Soviet structures of corruption and authoritarianism remained, giving the elite free reign over the new national civil and economic playgrounds. Two countries, Ukraine and Egypt, both having history in socialist policy, revolted against corruption at more or less concurrently. Continue reading “Comparing ‘populist’ revolutions: Ukraine and Egypt”

The Fall of an Empire

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By Daniel Atherton

Comparing the demise of the European Union to the collapse of the Roman Empire.

“A rising power on the peripheries in the North East, an overreliance on imported labour, a faltering economy, the rise of an inhumane enemy from the Levant, overexpansion, political instability, corruption within constituent members, the loss/lack of a uniting identity, mass migration including refugee influxes, and the weakening of central authority.”

Evan Andrews, The History Channel

You’d be mistaken for presuming that the above text is describing the demise of the European Union. You’d be wrong – but forgivably so. Continue reading “The Fall of an Empire”

Russian Israelites, Are They Voting “Right”?

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By Yury Polyakov

 The voting patterns among the Russian-speaking people in Israel. Part 1.

The Russian Speaking Israeli people have voted differently in all Israeli General Elections. The primary reason for several switches from one side to another was that the Russian speakers were vulnerable to propaganda. Not all Russian Speakers are ethnic Jews because the non-Jewish family members could migrate to Israel alongside their Jewish spouse. Thus, this article will cover the issues in both Jewish and non-Jewish circles inside Israel. Continue reading “Russian Israelites, Are They Voting “Right”?”

The Changing Character of Turkey – Death of Ataturk’s Republic?

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By Roger Maul

Autocracy, violence, terror, fear and oppression have enflamed modern day Turkey, as the secular and democratic values of the Kemalist Republic are ultimately discharged by a regime whose power has become seemingly irrepressible. And despite all the European outcry and protest toward Erdogan’s persistent flirtation with Ottoman nostalgia and his pursuit of Sultan-like absolutism, it seems like we have returned back to business as usual. As the prisons are filling with political opponents, media outlets being compelled to close and the juridical autonomy becoming merely a farce, it is all too necessary to dwell on the drastically changing character of Turkey and its decent into a dictatorial and socially divided nation. Continue reading “The Changing Character of Turkey – Death of Ataturk’s Republic?”

Fidel Castro’s Death, and What it Means to the Rest of the World

14355033_1381372131892109_8836122230010910437_n By Jennifer Amspacher

Fidel Castro was 90 years old when he died on November 25, 2016. He was frail and sickly, yet his death still came to the world as a shock. Fidel Castro was President of Cuba from December 2, 1976 to February 24, 2008, when he resigned and gave power to his brother, Raúl Castro. Not only did he hold Presidency in Cuba for 47 years, Castro was first a law student at University of Havana– then rebel, revolutionary, self-proclaimed anti-imperialist and pro-soviet socialist; labeled as a fearsome dictator by critics and as an everlasting legend and icon by his supporters. The late Fidel Castro, no matter how you view him, was indubitably one of the most politically influential figures in Latin American history.

Continue reading “Fidel Castro’s Death, and What it Means to the Rest of the World”

Crisis in Venezuela: What’s Really Going On?

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Perhaps not dominating, but infiltrating headline news for over a year now, is the political turmoil in Venezuela. The somewhat secondary reporting style regarding this crisis could perhaps be assigned to the fact that more ‘pressing’ matters concern the west at the moment; but you only need to obtain a few of the facts regarding life on Venezuelan streets in order to truly understand the sheer catastrophic consequences that political corruption has had on Venezuelan society.

Continue reading “Crisis in Venezuela: What’s Really Going On?”