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Start of university term to be hit with five days of UK-wide strikes

6 September 2023

Staff at 140 universities across the UK will strike for five days later this month in a long-running dispute over pay and working conditions.

At 136 of the 140 universities, UCU members will strike for five consecutive days from Monday 25 to Friday 29 September. Strikes will hit four Scottish universities on slightly different dates to coincide with local action by other unions.

The dispute centres on low pay and working conditions. Employer body, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) has imposed a pay award for 23/24 worth just 5% for most UCU members, even though they overwhelmingly voted to reject it. UCU is also demanding action on gig-economy employment practices and high workloads. 

UCU has now withdrawn its marking and assessment boycott. This has been ongoing since Thursday 20 April. It will also begin reballoting universities shortly. This will allow it to escalate the dispute by taking further action this year and into 2024. Staff are continuing other forms of industrial action, including working to rule, not undertaking any voluntary activities, and not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action. 

UCU's analysis of universities shows the sector generated more money than ever last year while the proportion going to staff fell to a record low.   

UCU has agreed to a joint review of sector finances alongside UCEA.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'We are left with no option but to strike during the start of term because our members refuse to stand by while pay is eroded and staff are shunted onto gig-economy contracts.   

'It is shameful that vice-chancellors still refuse to settle the dispute despite a year of unprecedented disruption, and have instead imposed a pay award that staff overwhelmingly rejected. Universities are richer than ever, generating tens of billions of pounds in income and hoarding billions more in cash deposits. But they won't give staff their fair share, a pay award of 5% is a huge real-terms pay cut and is substantially lower than school teachers received.  

'We have sought to settle this dispute at every opportunity, including agreeing to a joint review of sector finances, but we are faced with employers that want to see staff and students suffer. We desperately hope vice-chancellors realise we are going nowhere without a fair settlement and make us a realistic offer. If they do not, campuses will be marred by picket lines during fresher's week, and we will launch a new strike ballot allowing us to take action well into 2024.'

Last updated: 18 September 2023