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University strikes ON after universities refuse to deal with pensions, pay and working conditions

UCU members at 60 UK universities are walking out from Monday (25 November) until Wednesday 4 December

Disputes over pensions, pay and working conditions will affect over a million students

Union says it’s time for university leaders to show some leadership

Eight days of strike action at 60 UK universities will begin on Monday as the University and College Union (UCU) accused universities of being “all spin and no substance” in their response to disputes over pensions, pay and working conditions.

Earlier this week, UCU accused universities of playing games after their representatives refused to even discuss pay. The union said things were no better at talks yesterday (Wednesday) over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), where their representatives failed to make a serious offer.

UCU said it feared that universities had learnt nothing from last year’s dispute, when campuses were brought to a standstill by unprecedented levels of strike action.

Last month, UCU members backed strike action in two disputes, one on changes to the USS pension scheme and one on universities’ failure to make improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads. Overall, 79% of UCU members who voted backed strike action in the ballot over changes to pensions. In the ballot on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads, 74% of members polled backed strike action. 

The union called on other vice-chancellors to follow the example of Professor Anthony Forster at the University of Essex, who recently acknowledged employers can afford to pay more for USS and should be doing more to avoid widespread disruption.

The union warned that if universities failed to make improved offers then further waves of strike action could follow in the new year, with even more staff taking part. UCU has said it is currently consulting with its branches at other universities about being balloted again to join further action.

As well as eight strike days from 25 November to Wednesday 4 December, UCU members will begin “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.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:

‘It is quite staggering that the employers have allowed things to get to this stage and done so little to avoid the upcoming disruption. Instead of engaging seriously with us over the various elements of the disputes, they have been all spin and no substance.

‘Universities appear to have learnt nothing from last year’s USS dispute, and are once again showing a dangerous level of complacency that completely underestimates the scale of anger amongst staff. Instead of wasting time playing games, they would do well to listen to people like Anthony Forster who have acknowledged that universities can afford to pay more to address these issues. It is time for university leaders to show some actual leadership.

‘Students should be asking serious questions of their vice-chancellors and putting pressure on them to get their representatives back to the negotiating table with serious offers that address all the issues at stake. If universities don’t change their tune, then next week’s action could just be the start with further waves of strikes involving more staff in the new year.’

Angela Rayner, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said: 

“Fair pay, secure contracts, reasonable workloads and decent, affordable pensions should come as standard for all those working in education, including in our universities.

“Thousands are on strike today because that simply isn’t the case in the increasingly marketised system that the Tories have created. Labour will end the failed free market experiment in education and instead put staff and students first.

“It is time for the employers to put their students first and avoid any further disruption by bringing a reasonable offer back to the negotiating table.”

* UK universities affected by strike action from Monday 25 November

Both disputes (43):

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 Aberdeen

10.  The University of Bath

11.  The University of Dundee

12.  The University of Leeds

13.  The University of Manchester

14.  The University of Sheffield

15.  University of Nottingham

16.  The University of Stirling

17.  University College London

18.  The University of Birmingham

19.  The University of Bradford

20.  The University of Bristol

21.  The University of Cambridge

22.  The University of Edinburgh

23.  The University of Exeter

24.  The University of Essex

25.  The University of Glasgow

26.  The University of Lancaster

27.  The University of Leicester

28.  City University

29.  Goldsmiths College

30.  Queen Mary University of London

31.  Royal Holloway

32.  The University of Reading

33.  The University of Southampton

34.  The University of St Andrews

35.  Courtauld Institute of Art

36.  The University of Strathclyde

37.  The University of Wales

38.  The University of Warwick

39.  The University of York

40.  The University of Liverpool

41.  The University of Sussex

42.  The University of Ulster

43.  Queen’s University Belfast


Pay and conditions dispute only (14):

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.  The University of Oxford

12.  Sheffield Hallam University

13.  The University of Brighton

14.  The University of Kent

USS pensions dispute only (3):

  1. Scottish Association of Marine Science
  2. The University of East Anglia
  3. Institute for Development Studies


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