Charlotte FieldsFebruary 4th
2020

More than a million students could again be affected by strikes, with staff walkouts planned at 74 universities across the UK.

According to University and College Union (UCU), members will walk out between February 20th and March 13th as disputes over staff pensions, pay and working conditions continue.

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Last year in November and December, tens of thousands of university staff took part in eight days of strikes at 60 universities.

Now, Jo Grady, general secretary of the UCU, has warned that even more students will be affected by the walkouts this term following a series of re-ballots.

She said: “If universities want to avoid further disruption they need to deal with rising pension costs, and address the problems over pay and conditions.”

Strikes

The UCU has warned it will let even more strikes happen in the summer term if disputes are not resolved.

In 2018, universities were brought to a standstill by unexpected strikes over pensions that saw hundreds of external examiners resign.

Some institutions were forced to pay compensation to students - who pay up to £9,250 a year in tuition - over lost teaching hours.

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The new wave of strikes will start on the 20th of February which will esculate each week which leads up to a week-long walk out starting on the 9th of March.

Ms Grady said: “We have been clear from the outset that we would take serious and sustained industrial action if that was what was needed. 

“As well as the strikes starting later this month, we are going to ballot members to ensure that we have a fresh mandate for further action to cover the rest of the academic year if these disputes are not resolved.”

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A spokesperson for Universities UK (UUK), which represents employers in the pensions dispute, said: “We regret that UCU are planning further strike action at a time when positive talks on the future of the scheme are making significant progress and are ongoing.

“Despite this, UCU continue to request that employers pay still higher contributions at unaffordable levels.

“By law, pension costs had to rise to maintain current benefits. Employers have agreed to cover 65% of these increased costs, taking their contribution to 21.1% of salaries from October 2019 – together committing £250m more a year. Members have been asked to make a fair contribution too.

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“The best way forward is to work collectively to secure a pension scheme that is highly valued and affordable for all.

“Universities will put in place a series of measures to minimise the impact of industrial action on students, other staff and the wider community.”

A spokesperson for Universities & Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which represents employers in the pay dispute, said: “We are dismayed, and many higher education institutions will be so too, to see UCU’s HEC decide to ask the union’s members to once again use damaging strike action over last year’s national pay demands.

University Staff Strikes

“Strike action should always be a last resort and we believe that UCU’s 70,000 members in the 147 institutions should now be given a say.

“Strikes in less than half the universities in the multi-employer negotiations are not the answer and are in real danger of undermining the national collective pay bargaining arrangements.”

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