The UCU has announced three days of strikes on the 24th, 25th and 30th of November. Over 70,000 members of staff at 150 universities will participate in the industrial action. Upwards of 2 million students are expected to be impacted by the strikes, with lectures and other taught learning activities potentially being cancelled.
The strikes are being held due to objections to both pension packages and pay. Cuts to pension packages mean that staff will lose 35% of their guaranteed retirement income on average, UCU says, with losses particularly significant for those who are in the early stages of their careers. The pay rise of 3% which staff received falls under the rate of inflation, making cost of living one of the chief concerns.
In response to the news of strikes going forward, Raj Jethwa, Chief Executive of the Universities & Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), said, ‘Any threats of industrial action will do nothing to support students, staff or the many HE institutions working hard to avoid redundancies or maintain staffing levels, having delivered the August pay uplift.
‘UCU needs to provide its members with a realistic and fair assessment of what is achievable before encouraging strike action directed at students once again. UCEA and its member HE institutions always seek to work with UCU and other trade unions to support staff and students and to avoid any unfair disruptive action.’
The strikes come as a result of a record-breaking UCU ballot, with 81.1% voting for strike action on the basis of pay and working conditions, and 84.9% voting for strike action on the basis of pensions. If employers fail to make improved offers, UCU have warned of escalation in the new year, as well as a marking and assessment boycott.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said in a statement, ‘This is not a dispute about affordability – it is about choices. Vice-chancellors are choosing to pay themselves hundreds of thousands of pounds whilst forcing our members onto low paid and insecure contracts that leave some using foodbanks. They choose to hold billions in surpluses whilst slashing staff pensions.
‘UCU members do not want to strike but are doing so to save the sector and win dignity at work. This dispute has the mass support of students because they know their learning conditions are our members’ working conditions.
‘If university vice-chancellors don’t get serious, our message is simple – this bout of strike action will be just the beginning.’