12 more universities could face strikes this term

UCU reballots saw union members at 12 universities vote in favour of joining industrial action over attacks on pay, pensions and working conditions – taking total to 68

A total of 68 universities could now face strike action this term following University & College Union (UCU) reballot results.

The reballots came after a number of UCU branches failed to meet the legal 50% turnout threshold, in some cases by only one or two votes, in a three-week ballot last autumn of UCU members at 141 UK universities.

Twelve further universities could now face industrial action over pay, pensions and working conditions.

Of these, staff at six now have a mandate to strike over pay and conditions, five over pay, with one voting to join action over USS pensions only. Some branches already had a mandate for action in one of the two disputes.

Raj Jethwa, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, said there was “surprise and disappointment” among employers at the decision to reballot UCU branches.

Referring to those branches reballoted, Mr Jethwa said: “Just over a quarter of the branches reached the legal 50% turnout threshold required for industrial action over pay.

“While the results will be disappointing for UCU’s campaign leaders there will be further widespread dismay at all at those HE institutions where strike action will now be considered. It is now nearly six months (August 2021) since employees covered by the national pay negotiations saw pay increases of at least 1.5%.

“The great majority of HE staff understand the financial realities for their institutions and have moved on from last year’s balanced outcome. We trust that the UCU will now engage constructively in this year’s (2022-23) multi-employer negotiating round which is planned to begin at the end of March.”

The UCU branches that voted for strikes in the reballot are:

  • Swansea University
  • Newcastle University (pictured)
  • UCA – University for the Creative Arts
  • Northumbria University
  • Queen Mary, University of London
  • Writtle University College
  • City, University of London
  • University of Westminster
  • Oxford Brookes University
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Strathclyde
  • Courtauld Institute of Art

Three days of strikes took place at 58 universities last December.

“Staff in universities across the UK are angry at having their pensions, pay and working conditions continually attacked, and that’s why thousands more UCU members at another 12 universities have voted to join industrial action this academic term,” said UCU general secretary Jo Grady.

“Employers, who have demonstrated super-human levels of intransigence during these disputes, have no one else to blame but themselves for the position the sector finds itself in.

“We truly hope that further disruption can be avoided – that is what staff and students alike all want. But this is entirely in the gift of employers who simply need to revoke their devastating pension cuts and take long-overdue action over deteriorating pay and working conditions.”

For more background on the current strikes, read our coverage from last autumn.

Last week, UCU also announced what it called an “international boycott” of Goldsmiths, University of London in a row over planned redundancies – leading the university to warn the union that such a move would harm “struggling” local communities.

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