The University and College Union, which represents lecturers and staff at universities around the country, has backed strike action in a ballot of its members.
79 per cent of Union members balloted backed strike action over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which is related to their pensions. Meanwhile, 74 per cent backed strikes in the ballot over pay, casualisation, equality and workloads.
The UCU’s Higher Education executive are meeting tomorrow (Friday 1 November) to determine their next course of action, including whether to follow through on strike action, which could take place at any point in the next six months.
Under trade union legislation, turnout in a strike ballot must be 50 per cent in order for it to be legitimate, and this threshold was beat in 41 of the institutions polled. The law doesn’t apply to Queens University Belfast, or the University of Ulster, meaning 43 universities could go on strike, affecting over 950,000 students in the UK.
The University of Sheffield was one of the institutions which beat the turnout threshold, and voted heavily in favour of strike action – 83.5 per cent on whether to strike, and 88.9 per cent on whether to support action short of a strike.
Jo Grady, the UCU general secretary and a former University of Sheffield staff member, said: “The results can only be interpreted as clear support for strike action over pensions, pay and working conditions. The ballots reflect just how unhappy and angry staff are at the state of higher education in the UK.
“It is incredibly frustrating that we had to ballot members again, but universities only have themselves to blame after failing to address falling real-terms pay and for refusing to deal with casualisation, workloads and the rising cost of USS pensions.
“Universities now have to come back to us prepared to work seriously to address these problems. If they choose to ignore this message from their staff then strike action looks inevitable.”
This represents almost a repetition of strike action which took place nationwide in the 2017/18 academic year, when the UCU also struck over changes to their pensions, for a total of 20 working days in the spring semester.
During that action, they were supported by Sheffield Students’ Union, after SU Council voted unanimously in favour of the action at the time.
However, if Sheffield SU wanted to support the strike action again, another vote would have to take place.