STRIKE ACTION SPREADS TO 68 UNIS – more than 50,000 staff mandated to strike

UCU pickets out at King’s College Bush House site last week

STRIKE action at UK universities spreads to 68 institutions today as more than 50,000 staff are mandated to strike and well over a million students are being impacted.

Staff at 24 additional universities down tools today over pay and working conditions, with demands including a £2,500 pay rise for all university employees.

UCU now estimates staff pay has fallen by more than a quarter (25.5%) in real terms since 2009.

University employer representative, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) has refused to budge on its offer of a paltry 1.5% increase on existing salaries for 2021/22.

Staff from the 24 institutions hit with strike action today join those at 44 universities who walked out last week over a 35% cut to their guaranteed pension income. In total 68 universities are being hit with strike action lasting up to 10 days.

New retail price index 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 striking over pay and working conditions are 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 £2,500 pay rise for all university employees.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said yesterday: ‘While the university sector continues to bring in tens of billions of pounds each year, the staff who make it work have been forced to endure 13 years of real-term pay cuts and the indignity of trying to make ends meet on exploitative and insecure contracts. Vice-chancellors on eye-watering salaries have serious questions to answer as to why they have allowed staff pay to fall by over 25% since 2009, further exposing them to the cost of living crisis.

‘Staff aren’t asking for the world, they want secure contracts, decent pay, manageable workloads and for employers to end their vindictive attacks on pensions. But instead of listening to the longstanding concerns of their own workforce, employers have pushed them to breaking point and now half are reporting signs of depression.

‘During these strikes the support of students has been overwhelming. In their thousands they have lobbied their vice-chancellors, occupied university buildings and we are proud that on Wednesday 2 March they will be taking UK-wide strike action alongside us.

‘It’s high-time this world-leading sector stopped dining off the good will and dedication of its staff and started treating them with dignity.’

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