UCU, a trade union that represents university staff, including lecturers, administrators, researchers and others has voted in favor of strike action, over both pensions and pay and conditions in a ballot of 70,000 members. Members voted overwhelmingly in support of strike action, with 81.1% voting yes for action on pay and conditions and 84.9% voting yes for action in relation to the USS pensions scheme. The vote means the UCU are the first education Union to win a national ballot following the introduction of Trade Union laws in 2016.
Speaking on the live broadcast delivering the results Jo Grady, UCU General Secretary, said to Vice-Chancellors: “you have a small window to get serious in negotiations. If you do not take this opportunity we will bring every University in the UK to a standstill.”
The strike will be the first of this academic year following a number of strikes last year, which caused significant disruption to teaching across the UK. UCU has highlighted a number of issues its staff are dealing with in the face of the on-going cost of living crisis. The UCEA, (The University and College Employers Association) has offered its staff a 3% pay rise. However, UCU has argued that since 2009 staff at universities have received a 25% pay cut in real terms. UCU is demanding a pay increase of 12% for its members and an additional 2% increase for every pay point.
Furthermore, UCU is demanding that university employers agree to a framework to eliminate precarious employment practices. According to UCU’s own research one third of all academic staff are employed on fixed term contracts. Casualisation erodes academic freedom but also severely impacts the quality of life for the employee, with 42% of those on causualised contracts reporting difficulty in paying bills and 72% saying it negatively affected their mental health.
UCU has also highlighted the excellent financial position of universities across the UK. Last year UK universities generated a record income of 41.1 billion last year while the 151 vice-chancellors take home £45 million per year. Last year University Of Glasgow reported a surplus of £126.92 a 240.1% increase on the previous year. Meanwhile staff costs only rose by 4%.