December 2, 2022

University lecturers, librarians and administrative staff across the United Kingdom, UK, are to go on strike over pay and pensions.

According to BBC report, the University and College Union, UCU, said the strike dates are yet to be decided.

A total of 70,000 UCU members at 150 universities were asked to vote in two separate ballots – one on pay and working conditions, and another on pensions.

University employers say a pay rise would put jobs at risk in what they say are “very difficult” financial times.

Universities UK (UUK), an organisation representing 140 institutions, said universities would try to reduce the impact of any strikes on students and other staff members.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association, UCEA, which represents university employers across the UK, proposed a 3% pay increase for staff this academic year, with 9% for those on the lowest pay grades.

Source also gathered that UCU members want a pay rise to take the rising cost of living into account, much like unions in other sectors which have pushed for strike action in recent months.

Inflation which has affected the rate at which prices rise – is close to 10%, the highest level for 40 years. That means workers’ living costs are rising faster than their wages, leaving them worse off.

In the pay-and-working-conditions dispute, the UCU wants staff to receive a 12% pay rise, or Retail Price Index plus 2%. It also wants to address “dangerously high workloads” and scrap zero-hours contracts.

Some 81.1% of members who took part in the ballot, across 147 universities, voted for strike action.

UCEA chief executive Raj Jethwa said the results were “disappointing”, adding that there must be a “realistic assessment of what is possible” in “very difficult” financial circumstances.

“Higher education institutions want to do more for their valuable staff, but any increase in pay puts jobs at risk,” he said.

He said UCEA was willing to work with UCU, “but attempts to try and take more industrial action may simply hurt some students and staff for no realistic outcome”.

In the separate pensions ballot, 84.9% of members who took part, across 67 universities, voted for strike action.

While reacting to the issue, a UUK spokesperson, who spoke on behalf of USS employers, said contributions to USS pensions were already “at the very limit of affordability.

“Meanwhile, BBC reports that this is the first time a ballot by any education union has passed the legal threshold of 50% turnout across the country – enabling it to call a national strike – rather than in individual universities, which would have allowed only staff in those institutions to strike.

Asked about potential disruption a strike could have on students’ degrees, she said: “We are fighting for a better education system, and students would benefit from that too.”

Strike dates will be decided by the UCU soon, and it is understood action could start before Christmas.

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