University Staff Just Voted to Escalate Their Industrial Action

As the UCU dispute over pay, conditions and pensions continues, staff overwhelmingly voted to take further action.

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LONDON (Bywire News) - University staff are about to increase the scope of their industrial action, as part of a long-running dispute over pay, conditions and pensions.

The UCU: Given a Raw Deal 

Bywire News has been following the University and College Union (UCU) story, which has seen large numbers of universities hit by week after week of strikes. The industrial action has centred around universities inflicting a 25% real-terms cut to staff pay since 2009. Also, university staff’s pensions fund has been at the centre of this, also. Fund bosses have been claiming that it is in deficit – therefore, they’ve been pushing to cut staff’s pensions by 35%. However documents have repeatedly exposed that this is no longer the case. 

The latest evaluation of the fund shows that “deficit recovery contributions” are now 0%. In other words, the pension fund doesn’t need to cut members’ pensions to make up for its shortfall anymore. Despite this, bosses are still refusing to not implement cuts.

Major issues 

And there’s even more to the situation, too. As the UCU wrote:

  • Over 70,000 academics are employed on insecure contracts. 
  • The gender pay gap in UK universities sits at 16%.
  • The disability pay gap is 9%.
  • The ethnicity pay gap is up to 17%.
  • Two-thirds of higher education staff said they were considering leaving the sector.
  • University bosses earn around £278k, almost ten times more than entry-level academic or academic-related professional staff.
  • Recent university finance figures show total income across the sector is £41.9bn with reserves of £46.8bn.

So, the union has balloted its members on further action – for which they overwhelmingly voted in favour. Now, UCU has announced what this will look like. 

The Industrial Action Continues 

Members will be taking a further ten days of strike action at 39 universities. On top of this, the UCU will be undertaking a “marking and assessment boycott” at 41 universities. It wrote that:

The marking and assessment boycott will see staff refusing to complete any marking and assessment of students' work, meaning students could be left without grades with some unable to graduate.

The move represents an escalation in the pay and working conditions dispute in which staff have already taken 13 days of strike action. Vice chancellors, represented by Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), have so far refused to make any improved offers”.

The UCU has said it will decide on May 12 just when this boycott will happen. Its general secretary Jo Grady said the increased industrial action shows her union’s members:

justifiable anger at university vice chancellors who continue to ignore their concerns whilst drawing over-inflated salaries and hoarding billions in reserves”.

So now, the UCU and students will wait to see what the bosses’ response is to this escalation of action. But if recent history is anything to go by – it will probably be little or nothing at all. 

(Written by Steve Topple, Edited by Cléo Celeste)

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