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Universities to face five more days of strike action

Further walkouts announced after 10 days of strike action in February over pay and conditions.

04 March 2022

Universities could face a further five days of strike action beginning later in March, unions have warned.

On Friday the University and College Union announced that 68 universities across the UK would face five more days of industrial action unless pension cuts were revoked and demands were met over pay and working conditions.

In February, staff walked out over pay, working conditions and pensions for 10 days, with UCU general secretary Jo Grady saying at the time that this was a “a damning indictment of the way our universities are managed that staff are being left with no option but to walk out again”.

UCU announced on Friday that over 50,000 staff would take five further days of strike action over two weeks. The first week of strikes, starting on Monday 21 March, would involve 38 universities, while in the second week 30 universities would strike for five days from Monday 28 March.

UCU said that “well over a million students will be impacted” and that as part of the ongoing disputes, all of its branches would be reballoted to prepare for potential further strikes during the next term.

The union said that on February 22, universities had “forced through pension cuts” that would reduce typical staff members’ retirement incomes by 35%.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Vice chancellors could easily end this dispute and prevent further disruption in our universities, but they would rather attack the pensions, pay and working conditions of their own staff and damage the sector at the same time.

“Students and staff alike deserve better leadership than this and we hope that this action and our reballot of members for future action will make employers see sense.”

She added: “Universities in the UK bring in tens of billions in income each year and have tens of billions more hoarded in their reserves.”

“There is no justification whatsoever for slashing staff pensions or refusing to take action over falling pay, shocking equality pay gaps, rampant casualisation and unsafe workloads. For years our union has been offering sensible and deliverable solutions that would benefit staff, students and the entire sector, but employers are just not interested.”

“Students support staff because they know that staff working conditions are their learning conditions. They also know that universities have the money to give staff what they deserve. Until vice chancellors get the message, staff will continue to take action to defend themselves.”

A Universities UK spokesperson, on behalf of USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme) pension scheme employers, said: “Taking university staff out on strike again will not remove the need to reform USS to ensure it remains affordable for members and employers.”

They added that “February’s industrial action did not achieve the outcome UCU intended” and said that data gathered by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association suggested that “turnout on picket lines was even lower than before, with limited disruption to students”.

“With news of more strikes and yet another ballot, reasonable onlookers will conclude the union has an ideological fixation with strike action and is determined to pursue it, no matter the cost,” they added.

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