University workers vote for eight-day strike

By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Students at around 60 universities could face disruption

University lecturers and support staff are to strike for eight days in disputes over pay and pensions.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will walk out between 25 November and 4 December, following votes in favour of industrial action.

The strike action will affect 60 universities across the UK, UCU says.

The group Universities UK said it hoped the action would not go ahead, but said plans were in place to ensure disruption to students is minimal.

As well as the eight days of strike action, union members will begin other forms of industrial action when they return to work, such as working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

Pensions and pay

The action relates to two separate disputes - one on pensions and one on pay and working conditions.

In ballots last week, 79% of the 53% of UCU members who voted in the ballot over changes to pensions, backed industrial action.

In the ballot on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads, 74% of the 49% of members who voted, backed strike action.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "The first wave of strikes will hit universities later this month unless the employers start talking to us seriously about how they are going to deal with rising pension costs and declining pay and conditions.

"Any general election candidate would be over the moon with a result along the lines of what we achieved last week.

"Universities can be in no doubt about the strength of feeling on these issues and we will be consulting branches whose desire to strike was frustrated by anti-union laws about re-balloting."

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Image caption,
Students will be affected by eight days of action

A spokeswoman for the Universities and Colleges Employers Association said it was "dismayed" that UCU was taking "such extensive and damaging strike action over its national pay demands".

"Action of this kind will be damaging to students, lose UCU members money and risk undermining the collective bargaining arrangements."

A spokeswoman for the group Universities UK said: "We are hopeful that the dispute can be resolved without industrial action; but plans are in place to ensure that any potential disruption to students and staff is minimised.

"The resolution to the 2018 Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) valuation is both fair and reasonable, with the additional costs of maintaining the current level of benefits shared 65:35 by employers and scheme members.

"We are committed to ensuring USS remains one of the very best pension schemes in the country, and hope that UCU will now join us to consider governance reforms and alternative options for future valuations, which deliver a shared set of principles, increased transparency and a sustainable scheme."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We hope that a solution to the dispute can be found that will result in a positive outcome for providers, staff and students."

The universities affected

In total, the UCU says 43 universities are taking industrial action over both pensions and pay and conditions: Aston University, Bangor University, Cardiff University, University of Durham, Heriot-Watt University, Loughborough University, Newcastle University, Open University, University of Aberdeen, University of Bath, University of Dundee, University of Leeds, University of Manchester, University of Sheffield, University of Nottingham, University of Stirling, University College London, University of Birmingham, University of Bradford, University of Bristol, University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, University of Exeter, University of Essex, University of Glasgow, University of Lancaster, University of Leicester, City University, Goldsmiths College, Queen Mary University of London, Royal Holloway, University of Reading, University of Southampton, University of St Andrews, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of Strathclyde, University of Wales, University of Warwick, University of York, University of Liverpool, University of Sussex, University of Ulster and Queen's University Belfast.

Staff at a further 14 institutions are striking over pay and conditions dispute only: Bishop Grosseteste University, Bournemouth University, Edge Hill University, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow School of Art, Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, St Mary's University College, Belfast, Roehampton University, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Brighton, University of Kent and University of Oxford.

And three universities are walking out over a dispute over pensions alone: Scottish Association of Marine Science, University of East Anglia and Institute for Development Studies.

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