More Than 70,000 Staff At 150 UK Universities To Strike For 18 Days
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Over 70,000 staff members at 150 UK universities are set to strike for a period of 18 days between February and March as they become the latest in a long line of sectors in disputes over pay and working conditions.
The University and College Union (UCU) announced that its members will be demanding a meaningful pay rise to deal with the cost of living crisis as well as bringing an end to the use of 'insecure' contracts.
UCU's general secretary Jo Grady revealed on Thursday 12th January: “Today our union came together to back an unprecedented programme of escalating strike action. The clock is now ticking for the sector to produce a deal or be hit with widespread disruption throughout spring.
“University staff dedicate their lives to education and they want to get back to work, but that will only happen if university vice-chancellors use the vast wealth of the sector to address over a decade of falling pay, rampant insecure employment practices and devastating pension cuts. The choice is theirs."
The UCU also plans to re-ballot staff at all 150 universities to renew its mandate, including a marking and assessment boycott from April unless the disputes are settled. Last year, staff at Bristol University described how insecure contracts put them at 'risk of homelessness', with one researcher revealing how they were sofa surfing at friends' homes thanks to her close to zero hour contract meaning that few landlords would accept her applications for housing.
These contracts are known as 'Pathway 2', with a number of university staff facing precarious living situations as a result of their lack of guaranteed working hours, despite often working far more than these contracts state.
"In the current housing crisis in Bristol, homelessness is all too real a possibility for casualised workers," the unnamed researcher explained.
“What is the point of a contract for three hours per week? It may as well be zero hours. It grants no security. It means I cannot get a mortgage and move out of precarious rental arrangements. But far worse than that, I cannot even get a rental contract through an agency as my work contract does not guarantee enough income.”
Along with precarious contracts, UCU members will also be demanding that cuts to pensions be revoked and benefits restored, with cuts made last year set to see the average member lose 35% from their guaranteed future retirement income.
The news comes shortly after the government responded to the recent wave of industrial action with threats to implement what has been described as 'spiteful' anti-strike legislation.
As reported by Sky News, the new legislation would 'give ministers discretionary power to define minimum service levels and would leave workers who ignore orders to work during a strike vulnerable to dismissal.'
"This legislation effectively takes away the right to strike from millions of public sector workers," said Paul Nowack of the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
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