Lecturers look set to strike again

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UCU Pensions Strike 2018 (Chris Bertram)

Academic and academic related staff in just under 150 UK universities are to be balloted for strike action in the Autumn after negotiations between the University and College Union (UCU) and the university employers association, UCEA, have broken down.

It is very disappointing to report that the employers failed to improve their offer/ failed to sufficiently improve their offer,” wrote the UCU’s Head of Higher Education, Paul Bridge, in a note to local union branches. “In line with the decisions taken by the Higher Education Committee (HEC), UCU has today written to the heads of institutions we believe are part of the New JNCHES national bargaining arrangements lodging a trade dispute with each institution and setting out the steps they should take to resolve the dispute.”

“It is highly likely that UCU will now proceed to a statutory ballot of members over pay this autumn,” the note explained. “As agreed by HEC the ballot will open towards the end of August and run into October. Exact dates are to be finalised and branches and members will be advised in advance of the opening of the ballot.”

As part of the negotiations, UCU has demanded on behalf of their members:

  • An increase total spine points on the 50 point national pay scale of 7.5% or £1,500 whichever is greater
  • Nationally agreed framework for action to close the gender pay gap by 2020.
  • Nationally-agreed framework for action on precarious contracts
  • Nationally-agreed payment to recognise excessive workloads

Last month UCU consulted members on UCEA’s final offer of a 2% pay rise, with no agreement on national action on gender pay, precarious contracts and no payment in recognition of excessive hours and workloads.

UCU members that voted overwhelmingly rejected the offer, with over 80% of members voting against. Additionally 65% of members said they were prepared to take sustained industrial action if necessary.

However, while the turnout of 48% was the highest recorded by UCU for a UK wide pay consultation, it did not reach the 50% stipulated by the 2016 Trade Union Act. If the union is to take national strike action, it will need to exceed this number in a statutory ballot.

To deliver such a result, UCU branches are being encouraged to engage in ‘Get the Vote Out’ campaigns, which the union will hope will deliver the kind of sustained and widely supported action seen in the UCU pension strike earlier this year.

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