‘Time is running out’ to avoid further pension and pay strikes, says UCU

The University and College Union (UCU) has warned of further strikes and potential assessment boycotts if staff pension and pay demands aren’t met

The University and College Union (UCU) has warned that “time is running out” for university employers to meet its demands on pensions and pay and avoid further strikes.

On 19 January, the UCU higher education committee (HEC) authorised UK-wide and regional strike action and agreed to prepare a UK-wide marking and assessment boycott. Dates for the strikes are yet to be confirmed.

Fifty-eight universities took strike action in December last year. After a re-ballot saw more universities vote in favour of industrial action, staff at 68 universities now have the mandate to strike.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Time is running out for university bosses to avoid more disruption this term. But if they refuse to withdraw their devastating pension cuts or take action over deteriorating pay and conditions, staff will be forced to take UK wide strike action alongside rolling regional walkouts at campuses across the country.”

The UCU has claimed that the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) confirmed their assets have jumped to over £90bn, yet universities are still cutting staff pensions by 35%. The union also cleans university staff have seen a 20% pay cut over the past twelve years.

The union is demanding that university employers re-enter negotiations. As well as a withdrawal of USS pension plans, UCU wants a £2.5k pay increase for all staff, and the end to unmanageable workloads, pay inequality and insecure contracts across the sector.

We are also putting preparations in place to launch a marking boycott if employers continue to refuse to meet the demands of staff. We do not take this action lightly, but university staff are tired of falling pay, cuts to pensions, unsafe workloads and the rampant use of insecure contracts
– Jo Grady, UCU

The union has also threatened marking boycotts.

Grady continued: “We do not take this action lightly, but university staff are tired of falling pay, cuts to pensions, unsafe workloads and the rampant use of insecure contracts. We hope vice-chancellors finally see sense and address the long-standing concerns of staff. If they don’t, any disruption will be entirely their fault.”

The UCU branches to join further industrial action were Swansea University, Newcastle University, University for the Creative Arts, Northumbria University, Queen Mary, Writtle University College, City University of London, Westminster University, Oxford Brookes University, University of Leicester, University of Strathclyde and Courtauld Institute of Art.

More discussions regarding pension cuts are set to take place between UCU and employers in the coming weeks.


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