Staff at 14 more universities back pay and pensions strike

Total number of union branches eligible to strike this year reaches 74

January 29, 2020
UCU strike at Goldsmiths, University of London
Source: Eleanor Bentall

Union members at 14 additional universities have voted in favour of strike action in the ongoing row over pensions, pay and working conditions.

On 25 November 2019, University and College Union members at 60 universities went on strike for eight days over the dispute. The pickets ended with no resolution, and the UCU has warned that it may call for a fresh round of strikes in early 2020.

A total of 74 institutional union branches will now be eligible to take part, after the union re-balloted a further 36 universities in January. Of those asked again, only 14 met the 50 per cent turnout threshold legally required to take action, as well as voting in favour of taking action in either the dispute over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) or working conditions (including pay and casualisation), or both.

This means that about 6,000 additional members are now able to take action, the UCU said.

The University of London’s Birkbeck and SOAS will now participate in both disputes, as will the University of Oxford, which last time joined only the pay dispute, and the University of East Anglia, which had been involved only in the pensions dispute.

Nine other universities will now take part in the pay dispute only, and three additional universities will take part in the pensions dispute only.

Overall in the latest ballots, 80 per cent of members backed strikes over pensions, while 76 per cent supported strike action over pay and conditions.

The union’s higher education committee will meet tomorrow to discuss the ballot results and the offers on the table in both disputes.

On 27 January, employers in the pay and working conditions dispute offered to set sector-wide “expectations” around the use of casual contracts, gender and ethnicity pay gaps and workloads, but they made no movement on their proposed 1.8 per cent pay rise, which the UCU has previously rejected.

After the publication of the second report from the USS Joint Expert Panel, employers, the UCU and the USS agreed to get back round the table and hold a series of talks regarding pension changes. The last scheduled meeting was on 29 January, but all parties agreed to further talks if necessary.

Jo Grady, the UCU’s general secretary, said the union and its members “have been clear from the outset that we are prepared to take serious and sustained action to defend pay and conditions, as well as our pensions, and these latest ballot results show that members are just as determined as ever”.

The additional universities where union members can take industrial action are:

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