Image Credit: Patrick Walker
Following the review by the University and College Union (UCU) over disputes with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), the UCU has now confirmed 14 strike days at 74 UK universities in February and March. After having already had eight days of strikes in November, this latest announcement builds significant worry on the impact for students at the University of York.
This latest strike action will begin on Thursday 20 February and escalate each week, culminating with a week-long walkout from Monday 9 to Friday 13 March.
The UCU released a statement accompanying today's announcement stating that, "we have been clear from the outset that we would take serious and sustained industrial action if that was what was needed. As well as the strikes next month, we are going to ballot members to ensure that we have a fresh mandate for further action to cover the rest of the academic year if these disputes are not resolved."
YUSU officially supported the strikes in November, but it is as yet unknown whether or not YUSU will support this further action announced.
The full strike dates in relation to the University of York timetable are:
Week 7: Thursday 20 & Friday 21 February
Week 8: Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 February
Week 9: Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March
Week 10: Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March.
Speaking for over 120,000 academics, lecturers, and administrations in the UK, the UCU has an incredible presence in being the largest union representing UK university staff. Membership at the University is especially high in humanities departments, with humanities sustaining the greatest impact during the November 2019 strikes.
The negotiation between the UCU and the UCEA discusses two key debates. The first is the changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which administers the pensions of university staff. The scheme has come under fire for cost-cutting pensions by being overly cautious with pay-outs, and has been contentious since the 2018 strikes.
The second debate is over how much university staff are paid. The UCU argues that employers do not give lecturers sufficiently reliable contracts, often reducing staff to one-year contracts that hurt financial stability: a so-called process of “pay casualisation.” It also believes that salaries have not sufficiently increased with inflation, and are not appropriate considering the heavy workloads that many lecturers take on.
With this newest announcement of further strikes today, it is now clear that discussions last week between the organisations were not progressive.