University strikes: UCU members vote in favour of three days of strikes over pay, working conditions and pensions
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University staff have voted to go on strike in November, the University and College Union (UCU) has announced. Over 70,000 university staff from 150 universities around the UK will strike on three dates this month and 2.5million students could be impacted.
The strike, backed by the National Union of Students (NUS), will be the biggest university strike ever in the UK. Industrial action will be taken over attacks on pay, working conditions and pensions on Thursday November 24, Friday November 25 and Wednesday, November 30.
The UCU strike comes after overwhelming support from its members and a majority of ‘yes’ votes in two national ballots in October. Staff will also begin industrial action short of strike action from Wednesday 23 November, which includes working to rule, refusing to make up work lost as a result of strike action and refusing to cover for absent colleagues.
The union said that if demands aren’t met, union members will escalate their strike action in the New Year as well as implement a marking and assessment boycott. UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Campuses across the UK are about to experience strike action on a scale never seen before.
“70,000 staff will walk out and make clear they refuse to accept falling pay, cuts to pensions and insecure employment. This is not a dispute about affordability - it is about choices.
“Vice-chancellors are choosing to pay themselves hundreds of thousands of pounds whilst forcing our members onto low paid and insecure contracts that leave some using foodbanks. They choose to hold billions in surpluses whilst slashing staff pensions.
“UCU members do not want to strike but are doing so to save the sector and win dignity at work. This dispute has the mass support of students because they know their learning conditions are our members’ working conditions.
“If university vice-chancellors don’t get serious, our message is simple - this bout of strike action will be just the beginning.”
According to the UCU, the UK university sector generated record income of £41.1 billion in 2021 and vice chancellors around the UK collectively earned an estimate of $45 million. The union argues that more money should be spent on employees to help with the cost of living crisis.
Chloe Field, NUS vice president of higher education, said: ”Students stand in solidarity with the 70,000 university staff across the UK who will strike later this month. Staff teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions, and we must fight together for a fairer, healthier education system for everyone who works and studies.
“This is the fifth year in a row that government cuts to education and workers’ rights have resulted in strike action on our campuses. In that time, staff and students have stood together in the fight for better pay and conditions for all university staff, including the thousands of postgraduate students on increasingly casualised contracts.
“The struggles we face as students are inextricably linked to the reasons that staff are striking. High rents, astronomical international student fees, and cuts to maintenance support have happened for the same reasons that staff are suffering under huge workloads - the failed marketisation of the sector which has put profit above staff and student well-being.
“Universities and employers must come to the table and take meaningful action to end these disputes. They have a responsibility to their staff and students to end unacceptable pay disparities for racialised staff, disabled staff, and women, and to protect staff pensions to that they can have a decent retirement. As the workers of the future, students have everything to gain from UCU members winning this fight.”