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University of York staff fail to meet required 50 percent turnout in strike ballot

Students' study is unlikely to be disrupted by strike action during the summer term.

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The York branch of the University and College Union has voted against strike action after 3 May. In order for strike action to gain a legal mandate, the turnout rate has to be over 50 percent of those entitled to vote. Both votes, on pay and working conditions then on pensions, failed to reach the 50 percent ballot threshold, despite the fact that those that did vote, voted overwhelmingly for strike action.

Only 45.86 percent of the 1003 members that were entitled voted in the ballot on pay and conditions.  However, of those that did vote in the pay and working conditions ballot, 328 voted in favour of strikes compared to 130 against. This is an overwhelming vote in favour of strikes of 71.62 percent. During the ballot on Action Short of Strikes (ASOS) in regards to pay and working conditions, 87.80 percent of those that voted, voted in favour.

Similarly, 46.06 percent of the entitled members voted in the pensions ballot. Of those that did vote, 347 voted in favour of strikes related to pensions compared to 113 against. At 75.43 percent, this is also an overwhelming vote in favour of strikes. 89.59 percent of those that voted, voted in favour of ASOS in regards to the pensions dispute.

Both ballots closed at 5pm on 8 April and the University and College Union (UCU) announced the results of the first ballot on 11 April and the results of the second ballot on 12 April. Unlike the University of York, 24 universities across the country face strike action next term over pensions after their local branches not only voted in favour of strike action but also met the 50 percent legal turnout threshold. A further 12 universities face strike action next term over pay and working conditions.

As the various disputes are still going on, further ballots still could occur after 3 May. Strike Action legally requires a two week notice period, so it is very unlikely that further strike action this academic year will take place considering how few days there would be. That being said, ASOS does not require a two week notice period so further votes on this could occur.

ASOS would take the form of not working beyond the hours that are strictly contracted. If it does occur, an immediate marking boycott could be implemented. However the declining support for industrial action during these various disputes means that it is unlikely that ASOS will occur this term. The number of those attending the rallies and protesting at the picket lines has also declined in recent months.

Although students' study is unlikely to be disrupted this term, the various disputes between the UCU and the universities will continue as the demands of staff have not yet been met. The UCU has predicted that the average real terms pay of university staff has dropped by more than a quarter since 2009 hence they still demand an immediate universal pay rise of £2.5k. Their demands also include an end to race, gender and disability pay inequality along with an end to zero hour contracts and unmanageable workloads.

Matt Johnstone, Academic Officer of University of York Student’s Union, said: “We’re relieved to see our colleagues across the University have not voted to continue strike action. We hope the lack of disruption will allow us to spend less time dealing with the consequences of the strikes, and more time dealing with the issues at the root of the disagreement.

“Problems with staff workload, contracts, pay, and equality have not disappeared; unions and universities need to work together now more than ever to find long term solutions and foster positive industrial relations.”

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