Strike dates: UCU announce university strike on 15 March

Additional strike day announced to increase pressure on the employer, says UCU

A photo of a demonstration with a Universities and Colleges Union balloon

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced a further strike day on Wednesday 15 March, following a pause in industrial action as negotiations take place.

University staff will now join teachers, junior doctors, train drivers and civil servants on Wednesday 15 March, as Budget Day strike action grows.

The 15 March is in addition to industrial action already called on March 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, with the extra date added to put pressure on the employer, UCU General Secretary Jo Grady said.

Grady said: “The reasons we’ve added this additional date is to focus the employers mind as talks come to a conclusion this week and especially early next week.

“They need to have on them the maximum amount of pressure.”

Strike action set to go ahead from 21 February was paused by UCU after they hailed ‘real progress’ in talks with the employer via Acas.

However, some members of the union accused the UCU of calling off strike action without consulting members or national negotiators.   

There was concern that negotiations were taking place despite no news of a new pay offer from the employer.

Grady stated that the pause in industrial action was in order to create ‘the best possible environment’ for intensive talks with Acas to take place.

In a joint statement issued by the unions involved in the Acas higher education talks, they expressed ‘disappointment’ following instructions by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) to impose the first element of the 2023/24 pay proposal, despite not coming to an agreement yet on pay.

UCEA has said that it would not move from its latest ‘final offer’ of an 8% pay rise over two years, which amounts to a 15% cut against RPI unless inflation falls by August.

Commenting on the talks, Grady assured members that a pay offer had not been agreed and that progress was being made.

“I’m pleased to say that whilst Acas talks take place on a confidential basis, we are making progress across a range of subjects and will bring you more information as those talks come to a natural conclusion,” Grady said.

“The employer chose to put out their pay offer and make it clear that it is final and that universities can implement the initial element of that pay offer.

“We need to be absolutely crystal clear; this is not a pay offer that has been agreed with us as a union, or any of the other unions involved in the negotiations.”

Over 70,000 staff from 150 universities across the UK are taking up strike action, affecting nearly 2 million undergraduate students.

Since 2009/10, university staff pay has declined in value by 25% relative to RPI, whilst the higher education sector held £44 billion in reserves in 2021/22.

UCU is calling on employers for a ‘meaningful’ pay rise to tackle huge cuts to university staff wages, as well as addressing the casualisation of labour and unsustainable staff workload.

The union is currently reballoting its members to extend the union’s mandate to take industrial action. 

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

(Photo credit: Image credit: It’s No Game – Creative Commons)

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

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