Members of the University and College Union (UCU) have, in the last weeks, voted “yes” to strike action across two separate ballots — for better pay and working conditions and for the cut to pensions to be revoked. It has now also been announced that the strikes will go ahead, with this thought to be the largest walk out of university staff ever.
University staff have been fighting for improvements to pay, working conditions and pensions for years, with strikes regularly impacting students’ courses, including the marking of exam papers earlier this year. In fact, some students feel their learning has been so badly disrupted by strikes and the pandemic that they are also taking action against the universities by demanding money back.
This doesn’t take away from the fact that over 80% of staff who voted in both ballots agreed that strike action should be taken should no deal be reached. That’s a huge majority of university workers who feel their financial needs are not being met.
This landmark vote will mean more than a few missed lectures at one or two universities, however, as more than 70,000 staff at 150 universities in the UK will now go on strike later this month after negotiations with university bosses didn’t go to plan, leading to unprecedented numbers of staff going on strike.
What are university staff asking for?
There are two different votes that have taken place in the past couple of weeks, with results for both now in favour of taking strike action which will now go ahead over the coming weeks after negotiations with university leaders failed to reach a resolution.
The first ballot is based around pay and working conditions, with the UCU demanding a meaningful pay rise in light of the cost of living crisis instead of the meagre 3% they were offered earlier this year. There’s also concerns over an increasing number of insecure fixed-term teaching contracts.
The second ballot is all about pensions. Earlier this year, the average staff member of the UCU saw a 35% cut to their future guaranteed retirement income. This huge cut seems to be down to the management and financing of the Universities Superannuation Scheme which is the UK’s largest pension scheme which provides pensions to university staff.
What does this mean for students?
Right now, it means that the majority of university staff have voted in favour of striking. This is expected to be one of the biggest strikes ever taken by staff, which will leave universities on their knees after negotiations broke down last week, leading to the strike dates being announced.
70,000 staff at 150 universities in the UK have voted in favour of striking and are therefore expected to take to the picket lines over the strike days later this month — that’s almost every university in the country that would be impacted. Students could see lectures and seminars cancelled, meaning yet more disruptions to course programmes.
University staff agreed to strike only if they couldn’t come to an agreement with their employers in negotiations. Unfortunately, with their needs not being met, dates at the end of November have now been announced, with around 2.5 million students expected to be affected.
The full strike dates in November are:
- Thursday 24 November
- Friday 25 November
- Wednesday 30 November.
University staff will also be taking industrial action on the 23rd November feeding into the full strike in which they will refuse to cover for striking staff or work extra hours to make up the lost time.
If you’re worried about the impact of strikes on your university education, then speak to your university lecturers and tutors to understand the situation further. If you want to show your support for university staff, then you could also write to your university chancellor or join staff on the picket line.
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