UK university staff plan 10 more days of strikes in pay and pensions rows

More than a million students at 68 universities across the UK are to be hit by further strike action with up to 10 days of campus walkouts starting next month, union leaders have said.

The University and College Union (UCU) said more than 50,000 university staff were expected to take part in the latest round of action over pensions, pay and working conditions, beginning with a five-day walkout from 14 February.

Last month staff at 58 institutions took part in a three-day strike as part of what has become a long-running and bitter campaign that the union has characterised as a “fight for the future of higher education”.

Staff are taking action over two separate disputes. The first is over pension cuts for members of the University Superannuation Scheme (USS), which provides pensions to the UK’s older universities. The second is over low pay and issues such as insecure fixed-term contracts used to employ an increasing number of teaching staff.

The UCU said if no agreement could be reached in forthcoming talks, 44 institutions would take part in the first week of action, a five-day walkout over the USS dispute; 68 institutions would take part in two days of action beginning on 21 February over pensions and pay and conditions; and 39 institutions would take part in three days of action beginning on 28 February over pay and working conditions.

The UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said: “For a sector that is worth tens of billions of pounds and enjoys record levels of student growth, it is beyond disgraceful that in return staff get vicious pension cuts, falling pay and are pushed to breaking point under deteriorating working conditions.”

Universities UK, which represents the employers in the pensions dispute, responded: “Evidence from employers shows that UCU’s industrial action is not having the desired effect, with diminishing levels of disruption reported in every walkout since 2018.”

Raj Jethwa, the chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, which has been involved in negotiations over pay, said: “Rather than continuing this disruption, UCU should engage constructively in this year’s (2022-23) multi-employer negotiating round which is planned to begin at the end of March.”

The National Union of Students came out in support of the action and called on its members to take part in a student strike on 2 March, to coincide with the final day of the UCU action. Its national president, Larissa Kennedy, said: “We will continue to stand with staff in their struggles because nothing about this broken system is inevitable.”


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