UCU announces 14 days of strikes at 61 universities across the UK

UCU announces 14 days of strikes at 61 universities across the UK

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will strike in a dispute over pension cuts

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is one of the largest principle private pension schemes for universities. Employers want to end guaranteed pension benefits and instead make final pensions dependent on stock market performance. This will create a huge degree of uncertainty and could result in a typical lecturer losing £10,000 a year in retirement. The cuts will discriminate by age with newer staff facing larger cuts.

The strike will begin on 22nd February and the current plan indicates that it will continue for 4 weeks:

Week 1 – Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd

Week 2 – Monday 26th, Tuesday 27th, Wednesday 28th

Week 3 – Monday 5th March, Tuesday 6th, Wednesday 7th, Thursday 8th

Week 4 – Monday 12th, Tuesday 13th, Wednesday 14th, Thursday 15th, Friday 16th

UCL alongside King’s College, Queen Mary University, University of Edinburgh, and the University of Sterling will skip week 1 and start on the 26th due to differences in their academic calendars.

88% of UCU members voted in support of the strike in a legal ballot. In a ballot cast for UCL staff members on Friday 19th January 939 voted out of 1,668 eligible. 89% voted in favour of taking action by striking. Therefore they will not work on allocated strike days within or out of working hours. This includes not answering emails or marking assignments.

96.4% voted that they would be prepared to participate in action short of a strike. This means only working to contract (completely within hours), not rescheduling lectures or classes, and not undertaking any voluntary activities. This would begin and end at the same time as the strike action.

UCU has said that they see the strike as a last resort due to unsuccessful negotiations. Talks at the end of January between the UCU and employers representative Universities UK (UUK) ended without any agreement. UCU feels that only ‘sustained, disruptive action’ will force employers back to negotiation.

Staff are permitted to say that they are striking, but have no obligation to unless asked directly. Striking staff are encouraged to show their students a letter issued by the UCU urging them to tell other lecturers to support the plight, complain to the vice chancellor, and join student demonstrations on strike days. The letter also tells students not to attend lecturers on strike days and join staff picket lines. A video strike message to students can be found here – link.

The National Union of Students has called for the involvement of the government’s arbitration service ACAS to bring the UCU and UKK together for negotiations. They issued a joint statement with the UCU pledging solidarity. This can be found here – link.

Featured image: Carbon Culture

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