Image Credit: Dun.can
The University and College Union (UCU) has voted to back strike action over pay and working conditions, the organisation announced this evening. The Union, which represents thousands of University staff, including many at York, had been conducting a strike ballot over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS,) which it says will leave its members’ pensions over £240 000 worse off as costs of paying in rise. UCU has supported strikes before, most notably during the latter stages of the 2017-18 academic year, where many students at York were left without contact hours for months.
79% of UCU members who voted backed strike action over the pension changes, whilst 74% for strike challenging what it called unacceptable “pay, casualisation, equality, and workloads.” It argues that pay has fallen “sharply” by around 20% in the last decade, due to mismanagement by the government, and an overall decrease in pay awards.
The Union’s higher education committee will meet on Friday to discuss the next steps for the strike, including when it should take place. With exams arriving early next year, it is likely maximum impact could be achieved by the UCU if it decides to strike over the coming month. With such a large majority in favour of the move, a strike now seems inevitable.
Poor relations with the government over pay and pensions are not a recent problem, either. Earlier this month, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner called on both sides to get round the table for talks. Labour has said it fully supports UCU members in the strike, whilst Conservative Chancellor Sajid Javid has rejected calls for change, arguing that changing the current system risked damaging both the economy and public finances.
Commenting on the outcome of the strike, UCU General Secretary Jo Grady said: “The results can only be interpreted as clear support for strike action over pensions, pay and working conditions. The ballots reflect just how unhappy and angry staff are at the state of higher education in the UK.”
“It is incredibly frustrating that we had to ballot members again, but universities only have themselves to blame after failing to address falling real-terms pay and for refusing to deal with casualisation, workloads and the rising cost of USS pensions.
“Universities now have to come back to us prepared to work seriously to address these problems. If they choose to ignore this message from their staff then strike action looks inevitable.”