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UCU Fails to Meet National Threshold, Strike Action Prevented

A placard being held in someone's hand with a photo of Rishi Sunak on it which reads 'it's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me' and 'defend
Photo by Elizabeth Grace

The University and College Union (UCU) has failed to meet the national threshold for industrial action in their most recent ballot – preventing its members from taking strike action.

Although 68.32% of UCU members who voted were in favour of participating in strike action, and 75.57% were in favour of taking action short of strike (ASOS), the turnout was on 42.59% of union members.

Legally, that at least 50% of trade union members who are entitled to vote must do so for the ballot to be valid, in accordance with the Trade Union Act 2016.

As such, students will not see strike action disrupt their studies for the foreseeable future.

The UCU “criticised anti-democratic trade union laws”, arguing that “despite turnout being 43%, far higher than in May’s local elections (32%), staff will not be able to strike”.

Turnout for the previous ballot in March 2023 was 56.41%. In addition, the percentage of those in favour for both strike action and ASOS was significantly higher, at 85.85% and 89.92%, respectively.

Last month, the UCU came to an agreement with Universities UK over the pensions dispute, however it was balloting its members to take part in strike action over pay and job security.

There have been multiple waves of strike action since 2021, the most recent of which was in September. However, the King’s College London branch of the UCU (KCL UCU) did not participate after citing an “unhappiness with the way industrial action as been (dis)organised by national UCU”.

Despite this, KCL UCU’s turnout for the ballot came to approximately 61.5%. In post on X (formerly known as Twitter), it thanked its members, saying: “every member who votes and gets involved makes us stronger”. The branch settled its local disputes with King’s management at the beginning of this academic year.

General Secretary of the UCU, Jo Grady, said: “After a year in which we have run four successful national ballots, we have achieved a momentous victory by forcing employers to revoke their vicious pension cuts. But it is clear from this ballot that staff are still angry with vice-chancellors who have failed to deliver on pay, job security and workloads.

“We look forward to a Labour government rolling back the anti-union laws that prevent working people from democratically organising and block our members from fighting for what they deserve. In the meantime, we will carefully consider how we best turn our members’ rightful anger into practical action to achieve change.”

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