The University and College Union (UCU) has announced further strikes, following unresolved disputes over pay and working conditions, and rising pension costs. The 14 days of strike action will affect 74 UK universities, including the University of Glasgow, between February and March this year.
The disputes centre around universities’ failure to make significant improvements on pay, equality, casualisation, and workloads, as well as the sustainability of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and the rising cost for members.
Running over four weeks, the strikes will escalate each week, starting on Thursday 20 February. The full dates of the strike action are as follows: week six of the semester – Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February; week seven of the semester – Monday 24, Tuesday 25, and Thursday 26 February; week eight of the semester – Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4, and Thursday 5 March; week nine of the semester – Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12, and Friday 13 March 2020.
In November and December of last year, UCU members at 60 universities walked out for eight days, affecting around one million students. It is expected that a further 200,000 students will be impacted during this round of strikes due to an additional 14 universities joining the industrial action.
If the disputes are not resolved, the UCU says it will run fresh ballots to allow more strikes and ensure branches can take action until the end of the academic year. Strike mandates are only legally valid for six months, so branches who walked out in November would need to secure a fresh mandate to be able to continue to take action after April.
As well as the planned strike days, UCU members are undertaking “action short of a strike”, meaning members will work strictly to contract, not cover for absent colleagues, and refuse to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.
The UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said: “We have seen more members back strikes since the winter walkouts and this next wave of action will affect even more universities and students. If universities want to avoid further disruption they need to deal with rising pension costs, and address the problems over pay and conditions.
“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.”
When asked for comment from the University, Dr David Duncan, Chief Operating Officer at the University of Glasgow said, “We are disappointed that the UCU has decided to call on members to take additional strike action, especially as both sides had been making progress on issues relating to pay and pensions. While we respect the Union’s right to take industrial action, we will be doing everything possible to minimise disruption to students.”