Members of the University and College Union (UCU) working in UK universities have backed strike action in ballots over both pensions and pay and working conditions.

Overall, 79% of UCU members who voted backed strike action in the ballot over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). In the ballot on pay, casualisation, equality and workloads, 74% of members polled backed strike action*.

UCU said the overwhelming mandate for strikes was a serious indictment on the state of higher education and that if universities failed to respond to the sector’s problems then strike action, affecting around a million students, would be inevitable.

The union’s higher education committee will meet tomorrow (Friday) to consider the results and next steps in its campaigns to defend pensions, pay and working conditions.

Last year, university campuses were brought to a standstill by unprecedented levels of strike action. UCU said that it was frustrated that members had to be balloted again, but that universities’ refusal to deal with their concerns had left them with no choice.

Earlier this month, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner called on both sides to get round the table for urgent talks. She said she fully supported UCU members fighting for fair pay and decent pensions and called on both sides to work together to find a solution.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:

‘The results can only be interpreted as clear support for strike action over pensions, pay and working conditions. The ballots reflect just how unhappy and angry staff are at the state of higher education in the UK.

‘It is incredibly frustrating that we had to ballot members again, but universities only have themselves to blame after failing to address falling real-terms pay and for refusing to deal with casualisation, workloads and the rising cost of USS pensions.

‘Universities now have to come back to us prepared to work seriously to address these problems. If they choose to ignore this message from their staff then strike action looks inevitable.’

Responding to the outcome of UCU’s ballot on USS pensions, a Universities UK spokesperson said:

“Employers remain open to further talks with UCU to discuss how the dispute can be resolved without industrial action, which would be damaging for staff and students.

“Recent negotiations between UCU and Universities UK concluded with no cuts to USS pension benefits, and employers paying the majority of the extra contributions required under pensions law. In a challenging economic environment, this outcome is the best that could be achieved. Crucially, it is acceptable to both the USS Trustee and The Pensions Regulator.”

RESULTS

USS ballot - here is a full breakdown of the results currently available.

There are still four results to come in the USS ballot:

  • Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
  • Institute for Development Studies
  • The University of Liverpool
  • The University of Sussex.

Overall, the turnout in the USS ballots was 53%. The ballots were counted branch by branch and, with four results still to come in, 41 branches beat a legal 50% turnout threshold required for strike action. The threshold rule does not apply to Queens University Belfast or the University of Ulster. Based on the results so far, 43 institutions could take strike action that would hit almost a million students (953,871)

The 41 universities that passed the 50% turnout threshold in the USS ballot:

Aston University

Bangor University

Cardiff University

University of Durham

Heriot-Watt University

Loughborough University

Newcastle University

The Open University

The University of Aberdeen

The University of Bath

The University of Dundee

The University of Leeds

The University of Manchester

The University of Sheffield

University of Nottingham

The University of Stirling

University College London

The University of Birmingham

The University of Bradford

The University of Bristol

The University of Cambridge

The University of East Anglia

The University of Edinburgh

The University of Exeter

The University of Essex

The University of Glasgow

The University of Lancaster

The University of Leicester

City, University of London

Goldsmiths College

Queen Mary University of London

Royal Holloway and Bedford New College

The University of Reading

The University of Southampton

The University of St Andrews

Courtauld Institute of Art

The University of Strathclyde

Scottish Association of Marine Science

The University of Warwick

The University of York

The University of Wales

Also eligible to take strike action:

Queen’s University Belfast

University of Ulster

Pay and working conditions ballot - here is a full breakdown of the results currently available.

There are still four results to come in the pay and conditions ballot:

  • Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
  • Institute for Development Studies
  • The University of Liverpool
  • The University of Sussex.

Overall, the turnout in the pay and conditions ballots was 49%. The ballots were counted branch by branch and, with four results still to come in, 54 branches beat a legal 50% turnout threshold required for strike action. The threshold rule does not apply to Queens University Belfast or the University of Ulster. Based on the results so far, 56 institutions could take strike action that would hit over a million students (1,143,782).

The 54 universities that passed the 50% turnout threshold in the pay and conditions ballot:

Aston University

Bangor University

Bishop Grosseteste University

Bournemouth University

Cardiff University

City, University of London

Courtauld Institute of Art

Edge Hill University

Glasgow Caledonian University

Glasgow School of Art

Goldsmiths College

Heriot-Watt University

Liverpool Hope University

Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts

Loughborough University

Newcastle University

Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

Queen Mary University of London

Robert Gordon University

Roehampton University

Royal Holloway

Sheffield Hallam University

The Open University

The University of Aberdeen

The University of Bath

The University of Birmingham

The University of Bradford

The University of Brighton

The University of Bristol

The University of Cambridge

The University of Dundee

The University of East Anglia

The University of Edinburgh

The University of Essex

The University of Exeter

The University of Glasgow

The University of Kent

The University of Lancaster

The University of Leeds

The University of Leicester

The University of Manchester

The University of Oxford

The University of Reading

The University of Sheffield

The University of Southampton

The University of St Andrews

The University of Stirling

The University of Strathclyde

The University of Wales

The University of Warwick

The University of York

University College London

University of Durham

University of Nottingham

Also eligible to take strike action:

  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • University of Ulster

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