More Than 70000 UK University Staff Go On Strike Over Pay And Pensions

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More Than 70000 UK University Staff Go On Strike Over Pay And Pensions – Up to 2.5 million students may experience disruptions as tens of thousands of university staff begin industrial action on Thursday, in what has been dubbed the largest strike in the history of UK higher education. More than 70,000 staff members, including professors, librarians, and researchers, are expected to participate in the first of three days of strike action over pay, working conditions, and pensions, with strikes at 150 universities.

According to the University and College Union (UCU), the strike, which will also occur on Friday and Wednesday of the following week, will bring the sector to a halt. At 19 universities, Unison-affiliated administrators, cleaners, security and catering staff are also participating in industrial action over pay.

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“Staff are burnt out but they are fighting back and they will bring the whole sector to a standstill,” said the UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, who warned of “even bigger action” in the new year unless there was an improved offer from employers. “Vice-chancellors only have themselves to blame. Their woeful leadership has led to the biggest vote for strike action ever in our sector. Students are standing with staff because they know this can’t go on,” she said.

UCU’s demands include a pay increase in recognition of the cost of living crisis and an end to insecure contracts, following this year’s 3% increase. Concerning pensions, UCU wants employers to reverse this year’s cuts, which, according to the union, will result in a 35% reduction in the average member’s future retirement income. Robert Halfon, the minister for skills, apprenticeships, and higher education, stated that it was “hugely disappointing” that students who had already been impacted by the pandemic would experience additional disruptions to their education due to industrial action.

“I urge all sides to work together so that students do not suffer with further learning loss, and I encourage any student worried about the impact of strikes on their education to raise this with their university,” he said. The National Union of Students vice-president for higher education, Chloe Field, said students supported their lecturers. “We have always been clear that staff working conditions are students’ learning conditions, and for more than a decade both have come under attack from a sector that puts profits above education.”

The chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, Raj Jethwa, stated: “Union leaders must provide their members with a realistic and fair assessment of what is achievable because strike action does not create new money for the sector.” Meanwhile, Universities UK, which represents employers under the University Superannuation Scheme pension fund, said it remained one of the most attractive private pension schemes in the country.

Prof Steve West, the UUK president and vice-chancellor of UWE Bristol, said: “Universities are well prepared to mitigate the impact of any industrial action on students’ learning, and we are all working hard to put in place a series of measures to ensure this.” The UCU campaign followed a series of strikes that were confined to smaller groups of universities. 

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It is the latest in a wave of escalating industrial action occurring across the United Kingdom this winter, including action by tens of thousands of teachers in Scotland who are also scheduled to strike on Thursday, with more dates scheduled for next year. Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) are expected to shut down the majority of schools in Scotland if their demand for a 10% pay increase is not met.

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