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University staff begin strike ballot

Staff at hundreds of universities, including York, now voting on strike action

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Image Credit: Socialist Appeal

Staff across 152 universities, including the University of York, have begun voting in a strike ballot.

Jo Grady, General Secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), said that the strikes aim to combat “falling pay, unsafe workloads, rampant casualisation, gender and ethnicity pay gaps, and USS pension cuts".

UCU has called a ballot for the strike following changes to pensions, which they argue cut “an estimated 35% off the value of a typical pension”.

UCU demands a £2,500 pay increase for all staff salaries, action to tackle race, gender and disability pay injustice, a framework to eliminate zero-hours and other precarious contracts, action on unmanageable workloads and the reversal of pension cuts.

Jo Grady  said that the higher education sector is built on the “exploitation of staff” and that university employees are compelled to take action.

"These are not radical demands, but the bare minimum staff deserve and in the best interests of the sector as a whole,' she added.

UCU is the largest union representing university staff, with a membership of over 120,000 researchers, lecturers and other university staff in the UK.

This strike is part of a years-old dispute over the University Superannuation Scheme (USS), the pension scheme used by the majority of UK universities, which was also the focus of the strikes in 2019-2020 and 2018.

Critics of the strikes argue that its primary effect is disruption to teaching, and that it is ignorant of the financial limitations of the higher education sector.

The University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) has responded by guaranteeing increases of at least 1.5% to all salaries.

However, UCU has said that this pay offer is “insultingly” a real-terms pay cut, and called UCEA’s plans to address workloads and pay gap injustice “vague gestures”.

University of York Vice-Chancellor Charlie Jeffrey has said that he disagrees with the planned strike action.

The strike ballot closes on November 4th.

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