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Volume 52 Number 7, April 2, 2022 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers' Forum

UCU Members at 27 Universities Stage Five-Day Strike

University staff at 27 universities staged a five-day walkout beginning on March 28 over cuts to pensions and deteriorating pay and conditions.

The UK-wide action started last week when staff at 40 universities downed tools for five days. This is the third round of strike action this academic year. Staff recently took up to 10 days of strike action over three weeks, from February 14 to March 2, and previously went on strike for three days in December 2021.

The UCU also warned of a staff exodus from universities in Britain after two thirds of university staff said they are considering leaving the sector. The finding comes from a new UCU report "UK Higher Education - a workforce in crisis" based on a survey of almost 7,000 university staff at over 100 institutions.

The survey found:

Last month university employers forced through USS pension cuts, which will see 35% slashed from a typical member's guaranteed retirement income. In the pension dispute, UCU is demanding that employers revoke their cuts and re-enter negotiations.

New inflation figures mean UCU estimates staff pay is now down by more than a quarter in real terms since 2009. Over 70,000 academics are employed on insecure contracts. The gender pay gap in British universities sits at 16%, whilst the disability pay gap is 9% and the race pay gap is up to 17%.

In the pay and working conditions dispute, the union is demanding: an end to race, gender and disability pay injustice; a framework to eliminate zero-hours and other insecure contracts; and meaningful action to tackle unmanageable workloads; as well as a £2.5k pay rise for all university employees.

The union said universities can more than afford to meet the demands of staff. University finance figures show total income across the sector is around £41.9bn with reserves of £46.8bn. Students have been supporting striking staff and the National Union of Students joined the previous round of action with a student strike on March 2.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "University staff are striking over devastating pension cuts, falling pay and brutal working conditions. They have been pushed to breaking point again and again by vice chancellors and are now saying that they are ready to leave the sector entirely. This is a damning indictment of the way staff have been treated.

"If vice chancellors continue to ignore the long-standing concerns of staff, they will threaten the future of higher education in the UK. Universities generate income worth tens of billions and sit on huge reserves. They can afford to treat their staff better and would benefit their institutions by doing so.

"The toxic working culture that has been created by vice chancellors cannot be allowed to continue, which is why university staff are on picket lines yet again."

(Report from Union News)


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