University strikes: UCU threatens more walkouts as talks near close

Staff at 14 universities could go on strike after backing industrial action in reballots

Staff at 14 universities could go on strike later this term, the University and College Union (UCU) has warned, bringing the number of institutions affected by the on-going disputes to 74. 

UCU members at 60 universities went on strike for eight days in November and December last year, and now staff at more than a dozen universities have voted to follow in their footsteps. 

The vote means the sector could once again be hit by damaging industrial action, while solutions to the growing crises remain out of reach. 

Since the start of the new year, UCU has been in crunch talks with university representatives as the sides try to find common ground in two separate long-running confrontations. As both sets of talks enter their final stages, the union has ramped up the threat to providers with its latest announcement.

This January, representatives from the union joined counterparts from Universities UK to discuss reforms with the Universities Superannuation Scheme, the pension provider at the heart of one of the disputes.

Over the past decade I have never seen UCEA given the scope we have taken here to present such extensive proposals on behalf of our members – Helen Fairfoul, UCEA

UCU has also launched strike action on pay, job security, inequality and workloads. The union has now received an offer from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) to resolve the so-called ‘four fights’ dispute and is due to issue a statement on its next steps shortly. 

Announcing the new offer after two months of negotiation, UCEA chief executive Helen Fairfoul said: “Over the past decade I have never seen UCEA given the scope we have taken here to present such extensive proposals on behalf of our members.

“We really feel now that all trade union members deserve to be consulted over what is on the table. I genuinely hope that this positive work offered on important issues will be seen as an opportunity to conclude last year’s 2019-20 JNCHES pay round and enable us to move constructively into the imminent 2020-21 round.”

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “UCU members at 74 universities could walk out this term. We have been clear from the outset that we are prepared to take serious and sustained action to defend pay and conditions, as well as our pensions, and these latest ballot results show that members are just as determined as ever.

“Our higher education committee meets tomorrow to consider next steps in both disputes and will respond to the offer from the employers and discuss the latest from the talks on USS.”

Members of UCU at Keele, King’s College London and Imperial College London have voted for walk outs over the USS pensions dispute.

Staff at the universities of Bath Spa, Huddersfield, Winchester, East London, Leeds Trinity, De Montfort, Greenwich, as well as the Royal College of Art and University of the Arts London have voted to strike over pay and conditions.

Staff at Birkbeck, Soas, and the universities of Oxford and East Anglia have voted to strike over both disputes.

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