University staff call three-day strike in disputes over pensions and pay

·4-min read
A previous UCU strike in 2018  (PA)
A previous UCU strike in 2018 (PA)

University staff are to strike for three days next month in disputes over pensions, pay and working conditions.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will walk out between December 1-3 following votes in favour of industrial action.

The strikes will hit 58 universities across the UK before the Christmas break.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady has warned that more industrial action could take place in the spring if the row with employers remains unresolved.

Earlier this month, UCU members backed strike action in two separate disputes, one on pensions and one on pay and working conditions.

If employers remain intent on slashing pensions and exploiting staff who have kept this sector afloat during a pandemic then campuses will face strike action before Christmas, which will escalate into spring with reballots and further industrial action

UCU general secretary Jo Grady

Overall, 76% of UCU members who voted backed strike action in the ballot over changes to pensions.

In the ballot on pay and conditions, 70% of members backed strike action.

As well as the three strike days, union members will begin other forms of industrial action from December 1.

This will include strictly working to contract and refusing any additional duties.

This is set to go on indefinitely for the five months staff have a mandate to take industrial action for, UCU has said.

Dr Grady said: “Strikes over three consecutive days are set to hit university campuses next month unless employers get round the table and take staff concerns over pension cuts, pay and working conditions seriously.

“UCU has repeatedly asked employers to meet with us to try to resolve these disputes. But while we set out pragmatic solutions that could halt widespread disruption to UK campuses, university bosses refuse to revoke unnecessary, swingeing pension cuts or even to negotiate on issues like casualisation and the unbearably high workloads that blight higher education.

“A resolution to this dispute is simple. But if employers remain intent on slashing pensions and exploiting staff who have kept this sector afloat during a pandemic then campuses will face strike action before Christmas, which will escalate into spring with reballots and further industrial action.”

The UCU claims that cuts to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pensions scheme would reduce the guaranteed retirement income of a typical member by 35%.

It has also suggested that pay for university staff fell by 17.6% relative to inflation between 2009 and 2019, and since then employers have made below-inflation offers, with the latest worth 1.5%.

The UCU held a series of walkouts in 2019 and early 2020 over pensions, pay and conditions, which affected universities across the UK. There was also strike action in 2018 amid a row over pensions.

Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said: “With vice chancellors’ average total pay packets rising to £269,000 per year, it’s clear employers can afford to resolve their dispute with UCU over staff pay, which has fallen by an average of 20% in real terms since 2009.

“Staff teaching conditions are student learning conditions, and we mustn’t forget many postgraduate students on casualised teaching contracts will be striking.

“The onus for minimising disruption for students lies with university bosses: they must come back to the table to address the clear issues in how higher education is currently run.”

There are 33 institutions where UCU members are taking action over both pay and pensions. These are:

Aston University

Birkbeck

Durham University

Goldsmiths

Heriot-Watt University

Keele University

King's College London

London School of Economics

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Loughborough University

Open University

Royal Holloway

SOAS

The University of Birmingham

The University of Dundee

The University of Kent

The University of Leeds

The University of Nottingham

The University of Sheffield

The University of Stirling

The University of Bradford

The University of Bristol

The University of Cambridge

The University of Edinburgh

The University of Essex

The University of Glasgow

The University of Lancaster

The University of Liverpool

The University of St Andrews

The University of Sussex

The University of York

Queen's University Belfast

The University of Ulster

Twenty-one will be affected by workers taking action over pay. These are:

Courtauld Institute of Art

Edinburgh Napier University

Glasgow School of Art

Greenwich University

Kingston University

Liverpool Hope University

Manchester Metropolitan University

Queen Margaret University

Roehampton University

Royal College of Art

Royal Northern College of Music

Sheffield Hallam University

The University of Manchester

The University of Northampton

The University of Salford

The University of the Arts London

University College London

The University of Brighton

The University of Central Lancashire

The University of Chester

The University of Leicester

Four will be affected due to the pensions strike only. These are:

Institute of Development Studies

Imperial College London

The University of Bath

The University of Reading

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