Ben HaywardNovember 1st
2019

Over a million students could be affected after university staff voted in favour of strike action in the continuing dispute over pensions, pay and working conditions.

Students across 56 institutions could see their timetables disrupted by strikes after university workers backed a walkout, the University and College Union (UCU) announced.

79% of UCU members who voted in a ballot over pensions backed strike action while 74% backed action in relation to pay and working conditions, reports The Independent. 

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The latest threats of strike come after many universities were effectively brought to a standstill by unprecedented strikes last year (2018) over changes to employee pensions, with some institutions forced to compensate students for the hours of teaching that were lost. 

Universities that could be affected by the proposed strike action include Cambridge, Oxford, Durham and University College London.

Increased contributions as well as other changes to the universities superannuation scheme (USS) mean that many employees are suffering substantial losses - especially once they enter retirement. 

The UCU says its members have resorted to strike action as pension reforms mean university staff will pay roughly £40,000 more into their pension, but will receive nearly £200,000 less when they retire.

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General secretary of the UCU, Jo Grady, said: “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.”

UCU said it balloted over 52,000 USS members across 69 universities for strike action with the overall turnout at 53%.

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A spokesperson for Universities UK, which represents university employers, said: “Employers remain open to further talks with UCU to discuss how the dispute can be resolved without industrial action, which would be damaging for staff and students. 

Recent negotiations between UCU and Universities UK concluded with no cuts to USS pension benefits, and employers paying the majority of the extra contributions required under pensions law.

“In a challenging economic environment, this outcome is the best that could be achieved. Crucially, it is acceptable to both the USS Trustee and The Pensions Regulator.”

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