"Why make the students suffer?" Nick Ferrari confronts union chief over university strikes

20 February 2020, 10:33

Nick Ferrari confronted the university union chief over 14-day strikes which are set to affect an estimated one million students.

University lecturers in 74 institutions have begun the two week over issues with pension, pay and staff conditions.

"Why make the students suffer?" Nick Ferrari asked Dr Jo Grady.

Dr Grady said this was a question for the universities as the union has "constantly tried to have talks" and have been left in a position where "we have no other option but to withdraw our labour."

"Respectfully, you do have an option, don't you? You're not being forced to withdraw your labour."

Dr Grady responded, "I think if somebody was presenting you with the option of £240,000 from your pension and therefore your retirement over that period, and literally you've exhausted all ports, you might consider withdrawing your labour too."

The university union chief said three strikes in three years reflects to the poor university leadership
The university union chief said three strikes in three years reflects to the poor university leadership. Picture: PA

Nick observed that three strikes in three years is "quite a lot" to which Dr Grady responded is indicative of the university's leadership: "What they're saying is they don't want to pay staff equally, what they're saying is they're happy on universities functioning on the goodwill of staff."

On average, Dr Grady said, professors earn £50,000 a year however many staff earn less than minimum wage per hour when the amount they actually work is factored in.

"You're inconveniencing, possibly in part ruining, the chances of so many students," said Nick, to which the professor assured students are supportive of staff welfare and it is the university management over which they are protesting.

Dr Jo Grady from the union said there are huge gender and diversity pay gaps, massive numbers of staff employed on "precarious contracts" because they're earning below minimum wage, people are working 6 days a week, pay that is stagnated over a ten year period and a pension that's constantly under attack.

She hoped this would be the final strike but she has seen management "talk to us when we're on pickets and ignore us theo rest of the time."