By Luke Power
Mary Foy, the Member of Parliament for the City of Durham, has publicly backed the University and College Union strikes in the city.
Foy supported the strikes in person on 20th February, joining protestors at the picket lines on the first of what will be 14 days of strike action until 13th March.
UCU members at 74 UK universities have resumed strikes due to an unresolved dispute over pensions, fair pay, secure contracts and reasonable workloads. The UCU, representing over 110,000 staff across UK universities, feel that insufficient progress has been made since the previous strike action in November and December 2019.
Regarding her involvement in the strike action, Foy said: “I met some fantastic staff and students who are working together to achieve equal pay, better working conditions, and pension justice.
“It is important to remember that no one wants to strike.”Mary Foy, MP for the City of Durham
“These are reasonable demands which I fully support, and I hope that all parties can come together and reach a solution that works for staff and students.”
Foy also stressed the importance of remembering that any strike action is not taken lightly due to the disruptive impact it has on both staff and students.
“It is important to remember that no one wants to strike. In this case staff will lose pay and students lose valuable contact hours.”
The support fits into Foy’s wider commitment as a trade unionist. She is a member of both Unite the Union and Unison, the two largest trade unions in the British Isles.
Other Members of Parliament have taken to the streets across the country to support picketers, including Paula Barker and Zarah Sultana.
Jack Pearce, co-chair of the Labour Club, said of Foy’s decision, “DULC are glad to see Mary Foy endorsing strike action.
“It’s positive that our new local MP sees it important to stand with workers in the city. But it just shows how the University continues to wreck its relationship with the local community, many of whom work for the uni – when the local MP has to come out and her constituents to take strike action against you, you know you have alienated Durham.”
In response to the strikes, the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association, one of the organisations representing universities in the negotiations with the UCU, stated: “UCU’s demand for more than a 5% pay increase remains unaffordable with several universities reporting deficits in their latest accounts.”
The UCEA maintained that they are presenting “positive proposals” which focus on “casual employment, workload/ mental health and gender pay gap/ ethnicity pay”.
Image: Tim Packer