68 universities face a further five days of strike action

A good turnout of strikers at Imperial College

THE UNIVERSITY and College Union (UCU) announced over the weekend that 68 universities across the UK will face a further five days of strike action beginning this month unless vice chancellors revoke pension cuts and meet staff demands over pay and working conditions.

Over 50,000 staff are taking five further days of strike action over two weeks in both the USS pension dispute and the pay and working conditions dispute.
In the first week 38 universities will take five days of action from Monday 21 March to Friday 25 March. In the second week of action 30 universities will take five days of action from Monday 28 March to Friday 1 April. Well over a million students will be impacted.
As part of the ongoing dispute, all branches will also be reballoted soon in preparation for potential industrial action next term.
Due to the nature of its teaching model, staff at the Open University will be taking seven days of strike action.
Staff at the 68 universities just finished taking up to 10 days of strike action this week but after employers forced through pension cuts and refused to negotiate meaningfully over pay and working conditions, further action has now been called.
On 22 February, university employers forced through pension cuts which will see 35% slashed from a typical member’s guaranteed retirement income.
The UCU is demanding that employers revoke their cuts and re-enter negotiations.  In the pay and working conditions dispute the union is demanding an end to race, gender and disability pay injustice; a framework to eliminate zero-hours and other insecure contracts; and meaningful action to tackle unmanageable workloads; as well as a £2.5k pay rise for all university employees.
New retail price index inflation figures of 7.8% mean UCU estimates staff pay is now down by 25.5% in real terms since 2009.
Over 70,000 academics are employed on insecure contracts. The gender pay gap in UK universities sits at 16%, whilst the disability pay gap is 9% and the race pay gap is up to 17%.
Staff are also experiencing a crisis of work-related stress with over half showing probable signs of depression.
Staff at striking universities are also taking action short of strike (ASOS).
This includes working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action, and not undertaking any voluntary activities.
It was reported that employer representative, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, said university bosses are ‘compelled’ to dock 100% of the pay of staff taking ASOS.
So far only Queen Mary, University of London, has attempted to do so. UCU launched a local strike ballot in response and said that if any other university tries to emulate Queen Mary, it too will face further disruption.
UCU said universities can more than afford to meet the demands of staff.
University finance figures show total income across the sector is around £41.9bn with reserves of £46.8bn. On average, vice-chancellors enjoy full pay packages of £269k per year.
Students have been supporting the strikes and the National Union of Students joined the previous round of action with a student strike on Wednesday 2nd March.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘Vice chancellors could easily end this dispute and prevent further disruption in our universities, but they would rather attack the pensions, pay and working conditions of their own staff and damage the sector at the same time.
‘Students and staff alike deserve better leadership than this, and we hope that this action and our reballot of members for future action will make employers see sense.
‘Universities in the UK bring in tens of billions in income each year and have tens of billions more hoarded in their reserves.
‘There is no justification whatsoever for slashing staff pensions or refusing to take action over falling pay, shocking equality pay gaps, rampant casualisation and unsafe workloads.
‘For years our union has been offering sensible and deliverable solutions that would benefit staff, students and the entire sector, but employers are just not interested.
‘Students support staff because they know that staff working conditions are their learning conditions. They also know that universities have the money to give staff what they deserve.
‘Until vice chancellors get the message, staff will continue to take action to defend themselves.’

  • The NASUWT teachers’ union submitted detailed evidence on the 2022/23 pay award to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), which makes recommendations on teachers’ pay to the Secretary of State for Education.

The evidence sets out the case for pay award restoration commencing September 2022, highlighting that due to successive years of pay freezes and below inflation pay awards, teachers have now suffered a 19% real-terms erosion in their pay since 2020.
A multi-year pay award, starting with a 12% award from 2022 is being sought by the union.
Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said: ‘Teachers are looking to the Review Body to assert its independence from government and act on the overwhelming evidence of the adverse impact which over a decade of real terms pay erosion is having on the recruitment and retention of teachers and on the ability to maintain world-class standards of education provision.
‘Uncompetitive pay levels are contributing to a worsening picture on teacher supply.
‘The government has continuously failed to meet its own targets on ITT recruitment; there is a growing crisis of leadership succession and increasing numbers of teachers leaving the profession.
‘Data shows that by 2020, over 40% of those who had entered the teaching profession ten years previously were no longer teaching.
‘Our 2022 teachers’ pay survey indicates that 70% of teachers have considered leaving their job in the last 12 months and that 49% of teachers indicated that their pay had a great deal or a lot of impact on their intention to leave the profession.
‘Adding to the pressure on teachers is the soaring cost of living, which is driving more and more teachers into financial hardship. Our survey shows that two thirds of teachers are ‘‘somewhat worried’’ about their financial situation and 22% are “very worried”.
‘Over half of teachers reported having to cut back their expenditure on food during 2021, with some having to resort to using food banks or other forms of charitable assistance. Four in ten reported having to cut back their expenditure on essential household items and 12% have taken a second job.
‘We believe that the current challenges facing the profession are so significant that the government must look more broadly at remuneration and implement structural reform of the teachers’ pay framework in order to ensure it is fit for purpose in recruiting, retaining and adequately rewarding current and future cohorts of teachers.
‘This must involve returning the entitlement to national pay scales to teachers, including those undertaking supply work.
‘It is now time for STRB and government to deliver a pay award for teachers which restores competitiveness to the profession and which reflects the critical nature of the work teachers do to help build our society and foster economic prosperity for decades to come.’
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘The increases to starting pay that are proposed in the government’s evidence to the STRB must be accompanied by equivalent increases in pay for all teachers and school leaders.
‘Imposing lower increases for more experienced teachers and headteachers is deeply unfair, will damage morale and will actually increase the retention problems already facing the profession.
‘With inflation climbing ever higher, the government’s proposals would not only be divisive but would result in yet another significant real-terms pay cut for most teachers.
‘Instead of continuing to cut teacher pay, the government should be taking urgent action to restore the pay cuts imposed since 2010 so that we can recruit, retain and value the teachers we need.
‘We will call on the STRB to recommend that all teachers and school leaders get the same rises proposed for beginner teachers and that the government should fully fund them.’

  • Angry residents in Wales have claimed ‘dangerous’ parking has returned to a street near a primary school.

In December, people living on Lon Derw in Tondu, Bridgend county, barricaded their street with deckchairs over safety concerns.
They accused some parents of dangerously using the road for drop-offs.
The zone was shut by the council, but reopened this week and residents have claimed the ‘chaos’ has returned.
Following the cul-de-sac being barricaded, Bridgend council decided to reopen the drop-off zone at Brynmenyn Primary School for approved users only.
The zone is now locked down at the start and end of the school day, a speed limit of 5mph has been imposed and reversing is banned, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
Parents now have to fill in an application to become an approved user of the drop-off zone
‘I saw a lady on the zebra crossing and a driver just saw her at the last minute to brake. She was very close to being knocked over,’ said resident Mal Harris.
‘It is all well and good the council having this drop-off zone but it is no good if it is only for a select amount of people. It was mayhem. People are parking with no consideration for anyone but themselves.’
Councillor Tim Thomas said he would like to see Lon Derw be made accessible for residents only.
The drop-off site at other primary schools, including Pencoed Primary School, have also reopened with restrictions in place.

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