UCU strikes 2022: Why are college and university lecturers striking?

A University and College Union banner hangs off the gates of Queen’s University, Belfast, as staff embark on strike action  (Liam McBurney/PA Wire)
A University and College Union banner hangs off the gates of Queen’s University, Belfast, as staff embark on strike action (Liam McBurney/PA Wire)

Strike action from around 70,000 members of the University and College Union will take place this week.

The union said staff have been left “with no other option” as college bosses “refuse to raise pay”. Staff will be picketing outside colleges each morning of the strikes.

University staff are taking the biggest strike action in the history of higher education,” says UCU general secretary Jo Grady.

“They have had enough of falling pay, pension cuts, and gig-economy working conditions – all whilst vice-chancellors enjoy lottery-win salaries and live it up in their grace and favour mansions.”

Grady added that staff were “burnt out” but are fighting back and “will bring the whole sector to a standstill.”

She said: “Vice-chancellors only have themselves to blame. Their woeful leadership has led to the biggest vote for strike action ever in our sector.

“Students are standing with staff because they know this can’t go on, and they know that a sector which generates tens of billions of pounds each year from tuition fees can afford to treat its staff fairly.

“Further disruption can be avoided if the concerns of staff are addressed with urgency. But the overpaid vice-chancellors killing our sector should be under no illusion – 70,000 dedicated university workers are ready to take even bigger action in the new year.”

When are university staff striking?

Education staff will walk out on Thursday, November 24, Friday, November 25, and again on Wednesday, November 30, due to ongoing disputes over pay, contracts, and pensions.

In the biggest strike of its kind, the announcement of ongoing industrial action comes after the union stated that lecturers and other academic staff have suffered decade-long, below-inflation pay rises.

The strike will affect around 2.5 million students and could continue in the new year if a resolution is not found.

Why are college and university lecturers striking?

The union said that, since 2009, pay in further education has fallen behind inflation by 35 per cent, and the pay gap between school and college teachers stands at around £9,000.

Nearly 90 per cent of members in the UCU voted in favour of industrial action.

UCU’s demands include a pay rise in line with the cost-of-living crisis after their three per cent rise in the summer.

Regarding pensions, UCU wants employers to reverse cuts that were imposed earlier in the year, claiming it would lead to the average member losing roughly 35 per cent of their future retirement income.

Grady said: “College staff deliver excellent education but, over the last 12 years, their pay has fallen behind inflation by 35 per cent and now thousands are skipping meals, restricting energy use, and considering leaving the sector altogether.

“This strike action will continue for 10 days unless college bosses wake up to this crisis, stop dining off the goodwill of their workforce, and make a serious pay offer.”

Strikes in Scotland

Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) will also walk out on Thursday, November 24, which will be the first national strike over pay for almost 40 years.

The strike action by teachers is expected to close the majority of schools across Scotland.

“Students stand in solidarity with university staff going on strike,” says Chloe Field, National Union of Students vice president for higher education.

She added: “We have always been clear that staff working conditions are students’ learning conditions and, for more than a decade, both have come under attack from a sector that puts profits above education.”

University lecturer’s strike

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