Tag Archives: UCU

Women fighting back against education cuts

20 Sep


a special guest post by Kathy Taylor


History shows us that in times of austerity women have always been hit the hardest and this is certainly true in the current crisis.

Sixty-five per cent of public sector workers are women and the TUC predicts that of the 500,000 people who will lose their jobs as a result of the government’s public sector cuts, 350,000 (70%) will be women.

As a woman trade unionist and public sector worker, I am appalled by this continuum of inequality and injustice.  Whilst the Government’s cuts are having devastating effects on all workers, women are being disproportionately affected in every sector, including my own sector of post-16 education.

In the past two years, three-fifths of further education colleges have cut courses and two-thirds have reported a reduction in student enrolments, citing the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance as one of the main causes. In addition to removing the crucial financial support of the EMA, the government’s programme of cuts included the axing of the Care to Learn entitlement – an allowance specifically designed to support teenage parents, in the main young women, back into education by funding childcare.

The government recently published plans to remove all public funding from advanced level courses for people aged over 24 and force them to take out student loans instead.  Even by the government’s own estimates we are likely to see over 100,000 fewer college places, almost two-thirds of them women, taken up. A massive campaign by the education unions and the National Union of Students resulted in some government concessions, but the fact remains that opportunities for adults returning to learning or training will be severely restricted.

In higher education, the government’s axing of state funding for arts and humanities courses will once again rebound most upon women.  There are more women than men studying the at-risk courses, while the courses that are dominated by men, (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) have had their funding protected.

In April 2011, ministers significantly reduced funding to UKRC, the leading body in the UK offering advice and services to address the under-representation of women in science and technology.

And, shamefully, 40 years after the Equal Pay Act, women who do make it through their studies continue to earn less on average than men throughout their lives.

While there is no disguising the devastating impact of the cuts, women continue to play a full part in the fight against this onslaught of attacks.  Just one example from my own neck of the woods:  the North East Women’s Network is working with the TUC Regional Women’s Group to produce a report highlighting the specific impact on austerity in the region, building to a submission to the United Nations Commission to Eradicate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

A recent Observer article highlighted the positive role a new wave of women trade unionists are making in the fightback against record levels of unemployment among women. It also included a contribution from Frances O’Grady, who, to our great delight, is to be the TUC’s first female general secretary, and who is committed to defending the rights and education of women and to ensuring that all women, regardless of background, are given an equal chance to prosper.


Kathy Taylor



Kathy Taylor is President of the University and College Union


Public sector workers strike to defend pensions

10 May

by Amy Jackson

Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers are taking part in a 24-hour strike today across the UK to defend their Strikers brave the rain in Walespensions.  The strike goes ahead after union members from PCS, Unite, UCU, NIPSA and RMT overwhelmingly rejected the government’s proposals, saying the changes will leave them paying more and working longer for less in retirement.

Braving the elements on picket lines across the country, the public sector workers on strike today include paramedics, border agency staff, lecturers, MOD staff and civil servants. Lunchtime rallies in support of the strike are planned in major cities over the UK, such as Bristol, London,. Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Swansea. Despite the government dismissing the strike, the unions are determined to get their message across to the government. They will not work longer, pay more, and get less, in order to pay for a crisis they did not create.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The early signs are that our strike is being very well supported across the UK. Our members do not take strike action lightly but, faced with severe attacks on their pensions, pay, jobs and communities they have no choice but to defend what they and their families have worked to create for generations.

“Ministers are making unpopular, unnecessary and unfair cuts to the livelihoods of public servants to pay off a deficit caused by greed and recklessness in the financial sector, and for more than 12 months have refused to negotiate on the key issues of paying more and working longer for a worse pension.”

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘College and university staff are already seeing the impact of the government’s pension changes on their pay packets and will lose hundreds of pounds every year in return for reduced pensions when they retire. It is simply not fair for ordinary families to be bearing the brunt of the government’s cuts while those at the top get tax cuts.’

Unite’s Assistant General Secretary, Gail Cartmail said: “Tomorrow’s industrial action will build on the high level of anger that was on display during the 30 November strikes.

“George Osborne’s austerity plans are beginning to sicken everyone.  A ‘work until you drop’ culture in this country is not because people want teachers, nurses, firemen struggling at work into their 70s. It is because Osborne has ordained that this is the way to get ordinary people to carry the heaviest burden.  It is another attack on living standards and will make the UK, a miserable and socially divided island in which to live.”

Refusing to take the strike seriously, Conservative Party chairman Lady Warsi told BBC News that workers were being asked to “work a little bit longer and to pay a bit more but they will be guaranteed a pension which is index-linked and inflation proof”.

“I’m disappointed that a handful of unions are striving to carry on with union action which is going to benefit no-one and is going to inconvenience the public.”

Alongside the strike, 20,000 off-duty policemen are marching through London in protest against cuts and privatisation. The first 16,000 will be wearing black caps to represent each job in the police force that is being lost.

Left Out sends its solidarity to all striking workers today, and we’d love to hear from you! Send us a message to contact@left-out.net, or drop us a tweet to @leftoutblog. Leave your message of solidarity in the comments area below.

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