University staff to strike in pensions and pay dispute

Lecturers at as many as 58 UK universities will take part in strike action on 1-3 December in a row over pensions, pay and working conditions.

According to the University and College Union (UCU), some staff are striking because of the Universities Superannuation Scheme pension fund, which was put into place at the start of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. According to the union, it would reportedly lower members’ guaranteed retirement income by 35%, as a “flawed valuation”.

Meanwhile, staff at 33 universities are taking action over pay and working conditions, with members asking for a £2,500 pay increase, as well as an end to zero-hours contracts and what they said are unmanageable workloads.

Although the strike is set to begin on the first day of December, it could potentially last for the five months that staff have a mandate for. This would include only working to the terms of their contract and refusing to do any additional duties.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said she wanted employers to “get round the table” and take concerns “seriously”, as university bosses are “refusing” to revoke unnecessary, swinging pension cuts or even to negotiate on issues like casualisation and the high workloads involved in higher education.

“A resolution to this dispute is simple. But if employers remain intent on slashing pensions and exploiting staff who have kept this sector afloat during a pandemic then campuses will face strike action before Christmas, which will escalate into spring with re-ballots and further industrial action,” she said.

The Universities and College Employers Association (UCEA) chief executive Raj Jethwa explained that industrial action was “aimed at harming students” and was an “unrealistic attempt to try to force” 146 employers to reopen a concluded national pay round.

“UCEA genuinely wishes to engage on these matters as far as we can at a national level, noting that they are ultimately for local negotiations,” he said.