From education to employment

Union announces 14 strike days at 74 UK universities in February and March

Seventy-four UK universities* will be hit with 14 days of strike action in February and March, the University and College Union (UCU) announced today (Monday). The action will start on Thursday 20 February and escalate each week, culminating with a week-long walkout from Monday 9 to Friday 13 March.

angela rayner thumbnailAngela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, sending a message of solidarity to the UCU strikers, said:

“Labour stands in solidarity with striking university workers’ today. They are on strike due to the failed marketised system created under the Tories.

“They don’t do so lightly. Reasonable terms and conditions and fair pensions are the minimum they should expect, and their treatment is a stark contrast to the eye watering pay packets of a few Vice Chancellors.

“It‘s about time for the employers to put staff and students first, get back to the table and talk.”

NUS Vice-President (Higher Education) Claire Sosienski Smith explains why NUS is fully supportive of university staff fighting over low pay,  gendered and racialized pay gaps, increasing workloads and the casualization of their contracts:

“Government reforms have forced higher education providers to fight each other in a ‘market’ built on student fees rather than  providing accessible, life-long, fully-funded learning, and teaching staff are bearing the brunt of it. As long as our education remains a market, these situations will continue,  with more and more students feeling aggrieved. Students and employees are the ones paying a personal price here; the people in charge of the situation, our institutions and their Vice Chancellors, must work harder to resolve these disputes.

“Students have a right to be angry about the lack of progress on the discussions between UK institutions and the staff who teach and support them, day in and day out. We know that the student experience will always be better with satisfied staff who are able to teach and support students to their fullest ability. Unfortunately, this isn’t able to happen, which is why we stand together with UCU as they seek to negotiate a solution.

“When students are angry, they should make their voices heard to those in charge, and the advice service of their student union should be able to support them. It is perfectly reasonable to want compensation for their missed teaching – when Vice Chancellors and employers care so much about their own financial wellbeing, redistributing money from universities to the pockets of students in a system where the poorest students graduate with the most debt should at least encourage them to end the dispute sooner.”

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:

“We have seen more members back strikes since the winter walkouts and this next wave of action will affect even more universities and students. If universities want to avoid further disruption they need to deal with rising pension costs, and address the problems over pay and conditions.

“We have been clear from the outset that we would take serious and sustained industrial action if that was what was needed. As well as the strikes starting later this month, we are going to ballot members to ensure that we have a fresh mandate for further action to cover the rest of the academic year if these disputes are not resolved.”

The disputes centre on the sustainability of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and rising costs for members, and on universities’ failure to make significant improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.

The full strike dates are:

Week one – Thursday 20 & Friday 21 February

Week two – Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Thursday 26 February

Week three – Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March

Week four – Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March

UCU members at 60 universities walked out for eight days in November and December last year in action that affected around one million students. This next wave of strikes will affect another 14 universities and an additional 200,000 students, as more UCU branches crossed a 50% turnout threshold required by law for them to take industrial action.

The union also warned it would ballot members after this wave of strikes if the disputes could not be resolved, to ensure branches could take action until the end of the academic year. Strike mandates are only legally valid for six months, so branches who walked out in November would need to secure a fresh mandate to be able to continue to take action after April.

As well as the strike days, union members are undertaking “action short of a strike”. This involves things like working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

* Universities affected by strike action

Both disputes (47):

1.       Aston University

2.       Bangor University

3.       Cardiff University

4.       University of Durham

5.       Heriot-Watt University

6.       Loughborough University

7.       Newcastle University

8.       The Open University

9.       The University of Bath

10.   The University of Dundee

11.   The University of Leeds

12.   The University of Manchester

13.   The University of Sheffield

14.   University of Nottingham

15.   The University of Stirling

16.   University College London

17.   The University of Birmingham

18.   The University of Bradford

19.   The University of Bristol

20.   The University of Cambridge

21.   The University of Edinburgh

22.   The University of Exeter

23.   The University of Essex

24.   The University of Glasgow

25.   The University of Lancaster

26.   The University of Leicester

27.   City University

28.   Goldsmiths College

29.   Queen Mary University of London

30.   Royal Holloway

31.   The University of Reading

32.   The University of Southampton

33.   The University of St Andrews

34.   Courtauld Institute of Art

35.   The University of Strathclyde

36.   The University of Wales

37.   The University of Warwick

38.   The University of York

39.   The University of Liverpool

40.   The University of Sussex

41. The University of Aberdeen

42.   The University of Ulster

43.   Queen’s University Belfast

44. Birkbeck College, University of London

45. SOAS, University of London

46. The University of Oxford

47. The University of East Anglia


Pay and conditions dispute only (22):

1.       Bishop Grosseteste University

2.       Bournemouth University

3.       Edge Hill University

4.       Glasgow Caledonian University

5.       Glasgow School of Art

6.       Liverpool Hope University

7.       Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts

8.       Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

9.       St Mary’s University College, Belfast

10.   Roehampton University

11.   Sheffield Hallam University

12.   The University of Brighton

13.   The University of Kent

14. Bath Spa University

15. Royal College of Art

16. University of Huddersfield

17. University of Winchester

18. University of East London

19. Leeds Trinity University

20. UAL London College of Arts

21. De Montfort University

22. University of Greenwich


USS pensions dispute only (5):

1.    Scottish Association of Marine Science

2.    Institute for Development Studies

3.    Keele University

4.    King’s College London

5.    Imperial College London


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