The University trade union UCU have announced that their members have voted to take 14 days of strike action in February and March of this year. UCU represents most academic staff, including lecturers and professions, managerial staff as well as some postgraduate staff.
The University of Leeds is one of 74 universities nationwide which will be affected by industrial action, spanning four weeks from Thursday 20th February to Friday 13th March. During this period, some staff will not go into work resulting in delayed marking and cancelled lectures.
The strikes will intensify after each week. During the first week, staff who are striking will not go to work on Thursday 20thand Friday 21st February. In the second week they will miss Monday 24th, Tuesday 25th and Wednesday 26thand in the third week Monday 2nd, Tuesday 3rd, Wednesday 4thand Thursday 5th March will be affected. The industrial action will culminate in a week-long strike from Monday 9th to Friday 13th March.
Further disruption will be caused by members carrying out action short of a strike. This means staff who choose to take part will only work to their contract. This means they might not cover for absent colleagues or carry out voluntary activities like sharing class materials due to strikes or rescheduled classes.
During the last round of strikes in November/December 2019 that ran over 8 days, the University advised students to:
‘Turn up for each of your scheduled activities unless you know for sure that it has been cancelled. The fact that a lecturer has told you they will be on strike does not mean that their lecture or class will necessarily be cancelled. It is possible that it might be delivered by someone else.’
‘We are, of course, doing all we can to minimise any disruption. Your school will be the best source of information and will do what it can to keep you updated during the strike period. We encourage you to speak to the school’s student support/taught student office if you have any questions.’
Support will also be offered by the Help and Support team at Leeds University Union.
If the strikes take place, students paying £9250 a year will lose the equivalent of £886.98 in education given that 14 teaching days will be lost out of a total of 146 for the whole academic year.
These latest round of strikes marks the stalemate between the UCU and the pensions trust of the Universities United Kingdom (UUK) over increasing staff’s pension contributions.
Pension contributions are not the only source of contention, UCU are also striking due to ‘universities’ failure to make significant improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads’ (nicknamed “The Four Fights” dispute).
According to UCU, they argue over half of all academics are on temporary contracts, and pay have fallen by 17% in real terms since 2009. There is also frustration at Universities’ failures to bridge the gender and racial pay gaps as well as ever-increasing workloads.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:
‘We have seen more members back strikes since the winter walkouts and this next wave of action will affect even more universities and students. If universities want to avoid further disruption they need to deal with rising pension costs, and address the problems over pay and conditions.
‘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.’
UCU have also warned that if the two separate disputes are not resolved by the latest round of strikes then the union will ballot members for a third time this academic year to carry out more strikes potentially during the summer term.
Image Credit: Ed Barnes