As a show of solidarity with striking workers, members of PPU Warwick today chose to stage an occupation within the Arts Centre.
Whilst not affiliated to the trade unions, this action was decided upon as a means to support the strike by increasing its visibility, and further disrupting the daily running of the university.
We have chosen to occupy this site in order to significantly disrupt the operation of part of the university which is central to its broader reputation, and thereby to raise awareness on campus of real terms wage cuts and exploitation of support staff and junior lecturers. In doing so we seek to initiate debate in the student community concerning these issues.
We have acted out of concern at the proposed 1% pay increase for staff at the University of Warwick. This figure is below the rate of inflation and so represents a reduction in the value of wages paid by the university. This below-inflation pay deal continues a trend in the HE sector that has seen a real terms wage decrease of 13% for university workers in the past four years. This devaluation of staff has taken place in a period in which the percentage of HE sector spending on teaching staff has shrunk from 58% to 55%. By 2012 the University of Warwick had accumulated a surplus of £31m. This suggests that the current pay settlement is neither necessary nor inevitable.
The extent to which this pay dispute affects all of us amounts to far more than a day of missed lectures or a disrupted workplace. In recent years student fees have risen sharply; at the same time, the money the university spends on the staff supporting students has fallen. The increasing price of education and the decreasing availability of jobs are driving students to prioritise what they perceive to be in their immediate interest. In fact the interests of students and staff cannot be separated. In order to protect the quality of the university, its research and the experience of students, we must recognise that an investment in staff is an investment in students.
The iniquity of current trends in the HE sector is not restricted to Warwick alone. Across the country students are finding their voice and fighting the different ways in which universities are being driven to produce inequalities in our society as a result of their increasing marketisation. In Birmingham students have recently occupied in opposition to privatisation and cuts, in Sussex students are in occupation now over the outsourcing of university services. These campaigns, together with our own, represent the forceful resurgence of a national student resistance to marketisation of the HE sector. There is much to fight for, and a great deal to be done, but we will all lose out if the current assault on universities, their students and their staff is left unopposed.
Protect the Public University.