University Picket

Unprecedented strike action facing universities as UCU confirms strike ballot

1 July 2022

University staff could join the wave of industrial action sweeping the UK as UCU today confirmed it will move ahead with plans to ballot staff in disputes over pensions and pay & conditions.

The union's higher education committee (HEC) met today and authorised a ballot of all higher education members in late summer with strikes to follow in the November, along with further ballots for industrial action in spring 2023.  

For the first time in these disputes, the ballot will be aggregated meaning that if UCU achieves an overall turnout of 50% or above and a majority YES vote, all universities across the UK will be hit by strike action. 

Universities across the UK have already seen 15 days of strike action this year and around 40 branches are currently taking part in a marking boycott, with staff refusing to undertake marking and assessment duties. 

The union says 'time is running out' for employers to reverse their cuts to pensions and make improvements to pay and working conditions if more strike action is to be avoided. 

Around 80,000 members of staff at 149 universities will be balloted for action over falling pay, unmanageable workload (NOTE 1), the rampant use of casual contracts (NOTE 2) and pay inequalities (NOTE 3) as well over cuts to pensions.. 

On pensions UCU is calling for the swift withdrawal of the cuts imposed on USS pensions and for a new evidence-based valuation to be carried out. On pay and conditions, the union is calling for a pay rise for all staff of at least £2,500 alongside action to close equality pay gaps, eliminate casualisation and precarious work and to address excessive workloads. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'By attacking pensions, cutting pay and continually refusing to negotiate in good faith, vice chancellors have pushed staff towards taking more strike action, and now university staff are set to join the wave of industrial action sweeping the UK. 

'We do not take such action lightly, but university staff are beyond sick of falling pay, cuts to pensions, unsafe workloads and the rampant use of insecure contracts. The university sector is worth tens of billions of pounds and is predicted to generate record levels of income. It can more than afford to meet the demands of staff who are struggling in the midst of devastating cost of living crisis. 

'Time is running out and we hope vice chancellors finally see sense and address the long-standing concerns of staff. If they don't, mass disruption will be entirely their fault.' 

Last updated: 5 July 2022