No fresh strike due to low vote turnout


A UCU strike ballot has fallen short of the turnout required for industrial action

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By Eloise McMinn Mitchell

Photo Credit: Dave Pickersgill

The strike ballot by the University and College Union (UCU)
on industrial action in response to
a pay dispute has closed and fallen
short of the turnout required for industrial action. Of the 69 084 members balloted, 28 295 votes were
cast, nine per cent below the 50 per
cent requirement for strike action.
Those that did vote were in favour
of a strike (69.8 per cent), whereas
those against only made up 30.2
per cent of votes. However, 80.5 per
cent were in favour of action short
of a strike. In Northern Ireland,
where there is no minimum turnout
threshold, of 428 ballots cast 67.6
per cent were in favour while 32.4
per cent were against (two ballots
were spoiled/invalidated.)

UCU’s ballot was put to its
members after negotiations with
universities about pay increases
were deemed unsatisfactory. In the
last round of negotiations in May of
2018, a two per cent rise in pay was
offered, which the UCU has judged
as not enough. The UCU is particularly focused on the issue as salaries
have decreased in value by 21 per
cent since 2009. A similar ballot
was carried out in October of 2018
with the same result of not reaching the threshold for strike action
(in that ballot, 69 per cent were in
favour of strike action.) This ballot
was put forward by the joint efforts
of five different higher education
Unions: EIS, GMB, UCU, UNISON and Unite. They first submitted a claim on this issue in March
of 2018. Negotiators from the UCU
met on 25 February in order to discuss the UCU’s “approach to the
2019-20 pay round”, through which
they hope to address issues of “unfairness” in bargaining processes
within higher education in the UK
in addition to focusing on the decline of salary value. Alongside the
decreasing value of salaries, the
claim upon which the ballot was
based called for issues of equality,
workloads and precarious contracts
were to be raised.

In a statement on the result
of the ballot the UCU said: “While
this result shows continuing anger
about casualisation, workload and
pay inequality among participants,
it is clear the Union needs to reflect
on the result and upon the large
amount of feedback from branches
and members received during the
ballot.” As both negotiating parties
continue to try and navigate this
conflict, students remain at risk of
being in the crossfire of the dispute