Non-teaching staff were joined by student societies on strike this TuesdayEric Williams for Varsity

Non-teaching staff across the University went on strike this Tuesday (24/10), the first of four strike days announced by the union Unite for this term.

Striking workers were joined by student societies in a rally on King’s Parade, as the Union demands a pay rise higher than the five to six per cent increase currently being offered by the University.

Unite represents 450 workers from various departments at Cambridge, such as the Fitzwilliam Museum and University Library. The Fitzwilliam Museum and the UL’s special exhibitions were closed for the day as a result of the strike.

The industrial action was announced earlier this month after a ballot in which 75% of voters endorsed the strike, with a turnout of 54%.

A rally was held outside Senate House, where strikers were joined by students from groups such as Cambridge Defend Education, the Cambridge Marxist Society, and the Labour Club (CULC).

Ian Maidlow, Unite regional coordinating officer, told the crowd: “Seven picket lines across the city all morning, and hundreds of Unite members on strike. I’ve never been more proud of our Unite membership at Cambridge”.

“A world-renowned museum, and you closed it. Congratulations! But we want it reopened, and we want it reopened in a way that acknowledges and values the people that work there,” Maidlow said.

Speeches were also given by other members of Unite, a UCU representative, a Labour member of the Cambridgeshire County Council, a representative from Anglia Ruskin’s SU, and a member of the Marxist Society.

Maidlow told Varsity: “Nobody wants to cause disruption, nobody wants to close the Fitzwilliam museum, which is what’s happened. But the resolution to this is in the hands of the University.”

Emily Perdue, Unite Cambridge branch head, told Varsity: “We’re striking to get a better pay offer from UCU, because we believe 5% is not enough after years of below inflation pay rises.”

“We have balloted before on pay in previous years and not had the response from members above the threshold, but this year, our members felt that enough was enough and that this was the time to strike, and to show our dissatisfaction,” Perdue said.

“We would like to negotiate. We think it’s really simple that pay has to be improved. It’s not rocket science, it’s just improved pay,” she continued.

Speaking to Varsity in a personal capacity, Nicholas Lindsey, Campaigns Officer at CULC, remarked: “With tensions unfortunately growing between Labour and its affiliate unions at a national level, I think it’s more important than ever for individual Labour clubs like ourselves to step up to try and preserve these links on a grassroots level.”


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A spokesperson for Cambridge Defend Education said: “[We] are joining the rally today to support the demands of Unite members striking across the university. From maintenance and building staff to library and museum workers, we know the labour of those on strike today and Thursday is indisputably essential to the everyday running of our university – without them, there is no Cambridge.”

“We believe it is high time they are treated accordingly by senior management, and will be alongside them in solidarity until their demands are met,” they added.

One worker attending the rally told Varsity that university staff are forced to live outside the city centre due to house prices, and face long commutes.

“Some staff have to come in early, at half past 7 or 8, in order to avoid congestion, even before their paid hours begin,” they said.

The University of Cambridge has been contacted for comment.