THE BLAME for the disruption to students’ education by strike action starting today lays squarely at the door of vice-chancellors, said the University and College Union (UCU).
UCU members at 74 UK universities will walk out for 14 days in the largest wave of strikes ever seen on UK campuses.
Universities UK (UUK – the universities’ representatives in the pensions dispute) has spent the last week running a consultation on a new offer to make to the union. Yesterday it declared it was not going to make a new offer.
Meanwhile, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (Ucea – the universities’ representatives in the pay and conditions dispute) said again yesterday that it would still not talk to the union about the crucial pay element of the dispute.
UCU said students were being held to ransom by vice-chancellors who were not even prepared to discuss the issues at the heart of the two disputes.
The disputes centre on the sustainability of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and rising costs for members, and on universities’ failure to make significant improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘Vice-chancellors have had months to come up with serious offers to avoid widespread disruption on UK campuses.
‘Their failings are clear for all to see today and the blame for the disruption caused by the strikes lays squarely at their door.
‘It is incredible they can accuse the union of acting in bad faith when they refuse to talk about the pay issue and have spent a whole week failing to come up with an offer on pensions.
‘Worryingly, it looks like the hardline vice-chancellors, who wish to prolong this dispute, are still pulling the strings at Ucea and at UUK.
‘University staff are not going to be lectured on austerity or the necessity to hold down pay, worsen conditions and increase pension contributions from out of touch vice-chancellors whose own record on pay and perks has shamed the higher education sector.
‘Although vice-chancellors are refusing to budge, UCU remains ready to discuss all elements of the disputes and to work towards a resolution.’