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BREAKING: UCU announces huge strike action for February and March

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced 18 days of strike action in February and March in disputes over pay, conditions and attacks on pensions. Unless the disputes are settled, students can expect up to 2 days of strike a week on average.

In what UCU general secretary Jo Grady has called an “unprecedented programme of escalating strike action”, more than 70,000 staff at 150 universities across the UK could go on strike. The precise dates of the action will be confirmed next week.

In addition, the UCU has called for a marking and assessment boycott in April, which could hit summer graduations.

“The clock is now ticking for the sector to produce a deal or be hit with widespread disruption”, the UCU general secretary warned university bosses.

“University staff dedicate their lives to education and they want to get back to work, but that will only happen if university vice-chancellors use the vast wealth of the sector to address over a decade of falling pay, rampant insecure employment practices and devastating pension cuts. The choice is theirs.”

According to a press release announcing the strike action, the union is demanding “a meaningful pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis as well as action to end the use of insecure contracts”. The University and College Union claims that employers imposed a pay rise worth just 3% this year following over a decade of below-inflation pay awards.

UCU did receive a pay offer worth between 4% and 5% on Wednesday from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which represents university employers, but they rejected it, claiming the offer was “not enough”.

In the pension dispute, UCU is demanding employers revoke the cuts made last year and restore benefits.

In an earlier interview with Roar News, King’s Vice President of Education, Professor Adam Fagan noted that the university will have to mitigate the impact of the learning lost because of the strike actions.

“The focus is making sure that students are assessed on the work they’ve studied, the lectures they’ve had, the seminars they’ve had and that ultimately they can progress and graduate.”

Dr. Ewan McGaughey, President of the KCL branch of the UCU issued the following statement in response to UCU’s announcement: “It is unbelievable that university employers, while home student fees tripled since 2010 and international student fees doubled, want a 3 to 7% real pay cut for university teachers and research this year (that’s a 3 to 7% nominal pay “uplift” when there’s 10.7% inflation). University staff have had a real terms pay cut already of 20% since 2010, and this year alone KCL, for example, has an operating surplus of over £40 million.

“University pensions were slashed by over 30% on average in April 2022, based on the falsehood that the fund is in deficit – this is why we’ve taken court action to make the pension fund directors reverse their cuts and divest fossil fuels, and already we’ve seen the CEO resign, surpluses being reported, and more greenwash. Employers need to call off their management shutdown and stop forcing strike action, pay people fairly, end the gender and race pay gaps, and treat students and staff with the dignity they deserve.”

Roar News interviewed Dr. Ewan McGaughey back in October. You can watch the full interview here.

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