Academics’ union announces next phase of industrial action

Sam Harrison 3 June 2016

The University and College Union (UCU), which represents academic staff, has announced new measures in its ongoing dispute with the employers’ body, the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA).

At the union’s annual conference in Liverpool, members of the union voted to boycott the marking and setting of work in the autumn term, to disrupt open days and graduation days over the summer, and for members to resign places on examination boards.

The dispute has been rumbling since the UCU voted to strike after turning down a pay offer of 1.1%. Relations soured further when it emerged that university vice-chancellors had received an average pay rise of 6.1%, while UCU members, the union claims, have faced a pay cut of 14.5% in real terms since 2009.

The UCU has also accused the UCEA of neglecting the gender pay gap and growing casualisation. The UCEA has insisted in return that the pay offer amounted to 2.7% for half of all employees, taking into account progression. The strike took place over two days between 25 and 26 May.

In addition to the strikes, UCU members voted to work to contract, a measure which is currently in effect. This means that they will not set extra work, work overtime, or cover for absent colleagues.

UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt said of the decision, “The employers need to recognise that staff will no longer accept their pay being held down while a few at the top enjoy the rewards of increased money for universities. Nobody wants to take industrial action, but clearly enough is enough. We hope the employers will respond positively to members' decision to escalate their action and come back to us with a serious pay offer.”

A spokesperson for the UCEA said, "Few academic staff actually voted to support this strike action and the institutions tell us that the majority of their staff understand the financial realities for their own workplaces. Rather than ask their members to inflict damage on themselves, their students and their HE institutions, we feel it is time for UCU to conduct a consultation that enables their members to consider all the elements of the full, fair and final offer that is on the table."