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UK universities set for months of strike action

The strike action will be the largest in the UK's history.

University College of London courtesy of Leqi (Luke) Wang via Unsplash.

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced weeks-long strike action at 150 universities across the United Kingdom. 

The UCU announced its decision to strike, demanding that university employers “make substantially improved offers in disputes over pay, working conditions and pension cuts”.

The strikes are set to see over 70,000 members of UCU take strike action, in what will be the biggest series of tertiary education strikes in the UK’s history. 

Between February 1st and March 22nd, there will be between one and three days of strike action each week, bar one. 

The UCU is also conducting another ballot among members which, if successful, will enable them to take further strike action throughout the rest of the year. 

UCU members have been offered a four to five per cent pay rise by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), the representative body for university managements. UCU General Secretary Jo Grady described such an offer as “not enough” when the rate of inflation was over nine per cent in 2022. 

Grady said in a statement, “the university sector in the UK has over £40 billion sitting in reserves, but instead of using that vast wealth to deliver a cost-of-living pay rise and reverse devastating pension cuts, university vice-chancellors would rather force staff to take strike action and see campuses shut down.”

“There is a clear route out of these disputes, but at present vice-chancellors lack the political will to take it.” 

“A system that relies on low pay and the rampant use of insecure contracts is a system which fails everyone.” 

Raj Jethwa, chief executive of the UCEA, said, “the sector is asking the trade unions to consult their members over this pay offer rather than push them into striking that tries to target students.” 

The UCU will join workers across both the private and public sectors who are fighting for improved pay and conditions, with transport, healthcare, and legal sector workers having already taken strike action last year.  

The strikes in the UK come amid an ongoing Enterprise Bargaining process at the University of Sydney which has seen six days of strike action, as well as similar campaigns at universities across Australia, led by the National Tertiary Education Union. 

SRC Education Officers Ishbel Dunsmore and Yasmine Johnson told Honi, “we stand in solidarity with university staff in the UK.

“Their reasons for walking out are all too familiar to us at USYD. Uni management teams have refused to offer UK workers a pay rise that will actually keep pace with the cost of living, provide real job security, or deal with excessive workloads.

“If workers are going to win their demands, it will take a fight. The 18 days of strike action being planned by the University and College Union show the way forward.”

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