More than 70,000 staff at 150 universities across the UK will go on strike for 18 days between February and March in disputes over pay, conditions and pensions. University and College Union (UCU) said the decision was made on Thursday (January 12) after a pay negotiation with the employers fell through.
The committee also voted to re-ballot workers at all 150 universities in order to extend the union’s mandate and allow the union to call action well into 2023, including a marking and assessment boycott beginning in April unless the disputes are resolved.
UCU said “the clock is ticking” for university bosses to avoid widespread disruption this year by offering “meaningful pay rise” to deal with the cost-of-living crisis as well as action to end the use of insecure contracts. According to UCU, employers imposed a pay rise worth just 3% this year following over a decade of below inflation pay awards.
On Wednesday (January 11), the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which represents university employers, made UCU a pay offer worth between 4% and 5% but UCU said the offer was ‘not enough’.
In the pension dispute, UCU is demanding employers revoke the cuts and restore benefits. The package of cuts made last year will see the average member lose 35% from their guaranteed future retirement income. For those at the beginning of their careers the losses are in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “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.
“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.”
UCU said the exact dates of the action will be confirmed next week.