UCU prepared to carry out further strike action

Rally in support of the strike took place by Monument. Image: Saffron Kershaw-Mee

University and College Union’s (UCU) national High Education Committee (HEC) met on Thursday 9th March to outline decisions regarding the potential next steps of the lecturers’ pensions strike.

The latest update is that sixty-five institutions could face more strike action in the examination period, unless an agreement is made before the end of the current round of strikes.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt reported: “I have given my personal commitment that UCU is serious about reaching an agreement. However, if talks fail, we are prepared to carry out the action in defence of our pensions. Our negotiators today sought and received the further support of HEC for a series of 14 days of further strikes if no acceptable agreement can be reached.”

“If talks fail, we are prepared to carry out the action in defence of our pensions.”

                 Sally Hunt, General Secretary of UCU

She confirmed that the union will now prepare a new strike timetable and fresh advice for members, as well as other actions that members can take to support the action. UCU has said that it will now gather information on when the walkouts would be most effective at different universities.

Up to 42,000 academic members of staff from more than 60 universities have so far been engaged in three weeks of strike action, in response to proposed reforms to their pensions.

Universities UK (UUK), the representative organization of UK universities, wants to change the current guaranteed retirement income to one defined by changes in the stock market.

These changes could leave lecturers up to £10,000 a year worse off in retirement. UCU has stated that younger staff would be worst affected, with some losing up to half their pensions.

UUK say the scheme presently has a deficit of more than £6 billion, and they have a legal duty to put in place a credible plan to reduce the deficit by this summer.

They argue that, without reform, pension contributions from employers and staff would have to rise steeply, with potential cuts to university spending and possible redundancies.

A UUK spokesperson said: “Both sides are currently engaged in serious and constructive talks. We will expect that industrial action is suspended while UUK consults with all employers.”

UCU claims that the current action will affect over 1 million students, and proposals for future strikes could see thousands more facing disrupted exams and assessments between April and June. This also raises the prospect of some final-year exams being cancelled.

UCU claims that the current action will affect over 1 million students

Sally Hunt, in the meeting on Thursday, stated: “HEC also agreed to sanction, if necessary, further strikes immediately after Easter in institutions where scheduled teaching continues. Strike pay will be available for any action undertaken.”

With nearly 100,000 students having signed a petition calling for compensation of their fees, and Newcastle University’s Vice Chancellor announcing his support of the striking lecturers, there is increasing pressure for a resolution to be reached.

There is increasing pressure for a resolution to be reached

The talks were continued into Friday 9th March, with UCU members informed that they shall be updated when there is further news.

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