Sixty UK Universities Are on Strike

Former D&S collective member, Jim Phillips, who is a lecturer on social and economic history at the University of Glasgow, wrote to us about the 60 UK universities on strike for the past week, over pensions, pay, and working conditions.  Here is the press release from University and College Union from just before the strike. 

University strikes ON after universities refuse to deal with pensions, pay and working conditions

21 November 2019 

Eight days of strike action at 60 UK universities will begin on Monday as UCU accused universities of being ‘all spin and no substance’ in their response to disputes over pensions, pay and working conditions.

Earlier this week, UCU accused universities of playing games after their representatives refused to even discuss pay. The union said things were no better at talks yesterday  over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), where their representatives failed to make a serious offer.

UCU said it feared that universities had learnt nothing from last year’s dispute, when campuses were brought to a standstill by unprecedented levels of strike action.

Last month, UCU members backed strike action in two disputes, one on changes to the USS pension scheme and one on universities’ failure to make improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads. Overall, 79% of UCU members who voted backed strike action in the ballot over changes to pensions. In the ballot on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads, 74% of members polled backed strike action.

The union called on other vice-chancellors to follow the example of Professor Anthony Forster at the University of Essex, who recently acknowledged employers can afford to pay more for USS and should be doing more to avoid widespread disruption.

The union warned that if universities failed to make improved offers then further waves of strike action could follow in the new year, with even more staff taking part. UCU has said it is currently consulting with its branches at other universities about being balloted again to join further action.

As well as eight strike days from 25 November to Wednesday 4 December, UCU members will begin ‘action short of a strike’. This involves things like working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘It is quite staggering that the employers have allowed things to get to this stage and done so little to avoid the upcoming disruption. Instead of engaging seriously with us over the various elements of the disputes, they have been all spin and no substance.

‘Universities appear to have learnt nothing from last year’s USS dispute, and are once again showing a dangerous level of complacency that completely underestimates the scale of anger amongst staff. Instead of wasting time playing games, they would do well to listen to people like Anthony Forster who have acknowledged that universities can afford to pay more to address these issues. It is time for university leaders to show some actual leadership.

‘Students should be asking serious questions of their vice-chancellors and putting pressure on them to get their representatives back to the negotiating table with serious offers that address all the issues at stake. If universities don’t change their tune, then next week’s action could just be the start with further waves of strikes involving more staff in the new year.’


* UK universities affected by strike action from Monday 25 November

Both disputes (42):
1.     Aston University
2.     Bangor University
3.     Cardiff University
4.     University of Durham
5.     Heriot-Watt University
6.     Loughborough University
7.     Newcastle University
8.     The Open University
9.    The University of Bath
10.  The University of Dundee
11.  The University of Leeds
12.  The University of Manchester
13.  The University of Sheffield
14.  University of Nottingham
15.  The University of Stirling
16.  University College London
17.  The University of Birmingham
18.  The University of Bradford
29.  The University of Bristol
20.  The University of Cambridge
21.  The University of Edinburgh
22.  The University of Exeter
23.  The University of Essex
24.  The University of Glasgow
25.  The University of Lancaster
26.  The University of Leicester
27.  City University
28.  Goldsmiths College
39.  Queen Mary University of London
30.  Royal Holloway
31.  The University of Reading
32.  The University of Southampton
33.  The University of St Andrews
34.  Courtauld Institute of Art
35.  The University of Strathclyde
36.  The University of Wales
37.  The University of Warwick
38.  The University of York
49.  The University of Liverpool
40.  The University of Sussex
41.  The University of Ulster
42.  Queen’s University Belfast
Pay and conditions dispute only (14):
1.     Bishop Grosseteste University
2.     Bournemouth University
3.     Edge Hill University
4.     Glasgow Caledonian University
5.     Glasgow School of Art
6.     Liverpool Hope University
7.     Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts
8.     Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
9.     St Mary’s University College, Belfast
10.  Roehampton University
11.  The University of Oxford
12.  Sheffield Hallam University
13.  The University of Brighton
14.  The University of Kent
USS pensions dispute only (4):
1.       Scottish Association of Marine Science
2.       The University of Aberdeen
3.       The University of East Anglia
4.       Institute for Development Studies