Email to the UCU about striking and academics’ pay

Below is a copy of an email I sent to the University and College Union (UCU) with regard to the strike action, principally over pay, held on 31st October 2013.

This is posted temporarily as a response to several tweets about the pay of academics (or at least those working on climate change) that I received on 25th November 2013.


As a union member I will be taking part in the strike, but wish to emphasise that from a financial perspective it is the distributional issues that are important and not that all academics etc. are inadequately rewarded. Personally, I consider that professors and other senior members of staff are more than adequately remunerated – and actually some are overpaid by a considerable margin. At the same time many of my colleagues who are on short-term research contracts remain financially undervalued and with very uncertain job security, as indeed are many support staff, from P.A.s to technicians and cleaners. I would very strongly favour action that recognised and sought to address such distributional unfairness, and certainly I would support an absolute pay ceiling for anyone working within the university system. 

Universities should be about working as a collegiate team, not based on a failed model of top-down hierarchy. In 2013 I really think it is time the Union at least recognised the skewed incentive structure of our university system and began a programme of engagement with its members, University management and the Government to instigate meaningful change. Universities are supposed to be at the forefront of contemporary thought – so as systems-thinking is now percolating many courses, surely it is time the Union began pushing to replace the reductionist framing of value (elites overseeing research & teaching fodder) with a more collaborative and dynamic engagement of teams of valued individuals. This is action I could both intellectually and socially support; in the meantime I will abide by the Union’s call for a strike on Thursday – but will be doing so with some reluctance.

Kind regards