Dates for UCU’s ‘biggest ever strikes’ confirmed

Union calls 18 days of action in February and March ahead of crunch meeting in pay talks

January 24, 2023
UCU rally in London
Source: Tom Williams

Further dates for strike action at UK universities have been announced ahead of a crunch meeting in the latest round of pay talks.

The University and College Union (UCU) has called 18 days of strikes across February and March as it ramps up disruption during the spring term.

Up to 70,000 members of UCU could take part, affecting 150 universities. The union claimed that it would be the “biggest series of strikes ever to hit UK university campuses”. The full dates are:

  • Wednesday 1 February
  • Thursday 9 and Friday 10 February
  • Tuesday 14, Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 February
  • Tuesday 21, Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 February
  • Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 February and Wednesday 1 and Thursday 2 March
  • Thursday 16 and Friday 17 March
  • Monday 20, Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 March

UCU negotiators and representatives of the other higher education unions were due to meet with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (Ucea) on 25 January.

The union has called for Ucea to “substantially” improve its pay offer – which would increase pay for staff by between 4 and 7 per cent – or face the walkouts.

The UCU has called for a pay rise for all staff of 2 per cent above the retail price index rate of inflation, which stood at 13.4 per cent in December 2022.

A third of institutions are also affected by a dispute surrounding pensions provided by the Universities Superannuation Scheme, which was subject to cuts in April 2021.

A reballot of UCU members was due to be launched after the meeting. Another “yes” vote among members – if the union passes the 50 per cent turnout threshold – would extend the mandate for action for another six months beyond April.

Jo Grady, the UCU’s general secretary, said the sector should use the “£40 billion sitting in reserves” to “deliver a cost-of-living pay rise and reverse devastating pension cuts”. Instead, she said, “university vice-chancellors would rather force staff to take strike action and see campuses shut down”.

“There is a clear route out of these disputes, but at present vice-chancellors lack the political will to take it. They are failing staff who want to get back to work, and students who want to get on with their studies,” she added.

Dr Grady said a resolution could be reached, but “that is in the gift of university vice-chancellors, who need to urgently reassess their priorities and deliver a deal that benefits staff and students”.

Raj Jethwa, Ucea’s chief executive, called on the trade unions to “consult their members over this pay offer rather than push them into striking that tries to target students”.

“Our member HE [higher education] institutions are urging UCU leaders to provide their own members with a realistic and fair assessment of what is achievable, before giving them the chance to accept or refuse a pay offer. This is the highest HE pay offer made in nearly 20 years, with employers committed to implementing a proportion of this award six months early as a direct response to current cost-of-living concerns,” he added.

“Ucea’s current offer is an uplift of up to 7 per cent, with a minimum of 5 per cent for anyone earning up to £51,000. We hope that our proposals will be recognised as a genuine attempt by employers to address cost-of-living pressures. Now UCU, its fellow trade unions and employers need to work together in negotiating, rather than simply preparing for strikes.”

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles