Trade union laws frustrate national support for strike action on pay

22 October 2018 | last updated: 23 October 2018

UCU has criticised trade union laws for frustrating the wishes of members who voted for strike action over pay.

In ballots which closed on Friday (19 October), 85% of members in further education colleges who voted said they would back strike action, while over two-thirds (69%) of members in universities who voted did so in favour of strike action.

However restrictive trade union laws mean that, with the exception of Northern Ireland, only those institutions where a 50% turnout is reached can act on the results. Ten universities* and 4 colleges^ met the required threshold for action.

A full breakdown of results by institution for higher education is available here. Results for further education can be found here.

The union said members of both its further education and higher education committees would be meeting in the coming days to consider the results and next steps.

The dispute in universities has arisen after the universities' representatives, the Universities and Colleges' Employers Association (UCEA), made a final offer of 2% at pay talks in May. UCU said the offer does nothing to address the falling value of higher education pay, which has declined in real terms by 21% since 2009.

Meanwhile college staff have seen their pay decline by 25% over the last decade. The employers' representatives, the Association of Colleges, have yet to make a concrete offer to staff but have said they are seeking extra government funding to support a pay rise.  

UCU head of policy and campaigns Matt Waddup said: 'These national ballot results show clear support amongst members for action over pay. However, pernicious restrictions on turnout which single out trade unions for special treatment mean this can only be taken forward in some institutions. UCU members will be meeting in the coming days to discuss the outcome of the ballots and the next steps in our campaign for a better deal for staff.'

*Universities which voted in favour of strike action and met the required turnout threshold (N.B. the threshold restriction does not apply in Northern Ireland):
Courtauld Institute of Art
Heriot-Watt University
University of Huddersfield
Leeds Arts University
University of Nottingham
University of Sheffield
Brighton University
Queens University Belfast
St Mary's University College Belfast
Ulster University

^Colleges which voted in favour of strike action and met the required turnout threshold:
Bath College
Bradford College
New College Swindon
Petroc

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