70,000 university staff to join train drivers, civil servants and teachers in coordinated day of strikes

Tens of thousands of university staff will join other sectors in strikes on 1 February.

In an ongoing dispute over pay, working conditions and pensions, 70,000 members of the University and College Union (UCU) have voted to strike after talks with employers broke down on Monday.

They will join other industries, including train drivers, civil servants and teachers, on a coordinated day of strikes on 1 February organised by the Trades Union Congress, which represents most unions.

UCU members have threatened 17 more strike days in February and March if no agreement is made.

Read more: Who is striking and when?

Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, said: "Whilst the cost of living crisis rages, university vice-chancellors are dragging their feet and refusing to use the vast wealth in the sector to address over a decade of falling pay, rampant casualisation and massive pension cuts.

"On 1 February, 70,000 university staff will walk out alongside fellow trade unions and hundreds of thousands of other workers to demand their fair share.

"UCU remains committed to reaching a negotiated settlement, but if university employers don't get serious and fast, more strike action will follow in February and March."

University staff have already taken industrial action on three days this academic year after being given a 3% pay rise, which union members have rejected "following a decade of below-inflation pay awards".

On Monday, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, representing university heads, refused to move from an updated 4-5% offer made last week, but the UCU said the offer is "not enough".

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The UCU is striking over two separate issues.

It is calling on 145 universities to provide a meaningful pay rise to help staff with the cost of living crisis, an agreed framework to "eliminate insecure employment practices" such as temporary and zero-hour contracts, and to address "dangerously high workloads".

The union said staff have experienced a 25% real-term decline in pay since 2009-10 "due to a series of below-inflation pay awards".

It is also in a pension dispute with 67 institutions as members demand employers withdraw cuts to their pension scheme and restore benefits to 2021 levels.

The union said the cuts mean a typical staff member will lose 35% of their guaranteed retirement income, with the decrease made based on a valuation of the scheme in 2020 that found a deficit of £14bn.

But the union said the scheme is now "performing so well that the deficit has disappeared" and it is now reporting a £1.8bn surplus, while data shows pension benefits could be restored for lower contributions and still leave the scheme in surplus.