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HE national disputes 2021

Important announcement: UCU industrial action starts on 1 December

16 November 2021

Last Friday, your elected representatives on the UCU higher education committee (HEC) met and decided to call strike action in the 58 branches that achieved a mandate in our recent USS and Four Fights ballots.

The strikes will run for three days this term, from Wednesday 1 December to Friday 3 December. All dates apply to both disputes.

The HEC also decided to call action short of a strike (ASOS), starting with working to contract only.

Working to contract will start on 1 December in the 64 branches that achieved a mandate for ASOS and run until the end of the 6-month legal mandate for action on 3 May 2022.

If there is insufficient progress in negotiations, there is likely to be more strike action called in the new year and our programme of ASOS will escalate to include a wider range of activities.

The president of the national union of students, Larissa Kennedy, has made a powerful statement today in support of our action. Employers have been driving down conditions for more than a decade and I am proud of every UCU member who will be taking action to change that.

What to do if your branch isn't taking action

To achieve a mandate for strike action or ASOS, your branch needed a majority YES vote for that type of action and (unless it is in Northern Ireland) a turnout of 50% or more. You can remind yourself of the Four Fights ballot results here and the USS results here.

If your branch missed the 50% turnout threshold, you may be reballoted with a view to joining any action taking place next term. Reballots will be disaggregated, meaning each branch will need to achieve 50% turnout to join the action. Please look out for more details about reballots in the coming days.

In the meantime, I urge you to donate to UCU's fighting fund to support your colleagues who are taking action. They are doing it on behalf of the whole sector so please act in solidarity and give whatever you can.

Employers are doubling down - so we need to increase the pressure

The HEC's decisions are the result of branches' input via the branch delegate meetings that took place last Friday morning. Branches sent a clear message that this was the right amount of strike action to take this term to put pressure on employers and force them to come back to the negotiating table with better offers.

We call industrial action when we have exhausted every other route including negotiations. I wrote to employers when the ballot results were published to give them one last chance to make improved offers before action takes place.

You can find my letter to the employer representative in the Four Fights dispute, UCEA, here and UCEA's response here.

You can find my letter to the employer representative in the USS dispute, UUK here, and UUK's response here.

Employers are doubling down on their completely unacceptable positions: another below-inflation pay offer, doing nothing on casualisation, workloads and inequality, and cutting USS members' guaranteed future pension benefits by 35% or more.

We are at an impasse and nothing will change for the better unless UCU members put on a massive show of strength in those three days of strike action and accompanying ASOS.

The greater the number of members withdrawing their labour and working to contract, the more likely employers are to want to avoid any further strikes next term - which will be even more disruptive if branches taking part in reballots can get a mandate to join the action.

I will write with more announcements and updates in the coming days but for now, look out for messages from your branch about how you can take part and help make sure we win these disputes.

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary

Last updated: 6 May 2022