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27th November 2019

UCU strikes could affect university exams in January

The UCU general secretary warns strikes will continue into the following year if not presented with a fair deal
UCU strikes could affect university exams in January
Photo: Stinglehammer @wikimedia commons

The University and College Union (UCU) has warned that a second wave of strikes could go ahead if the disputes over pensions, pay, and working conditions are not resolved.

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, has issued warnings that strikes could continue after Christmas, which may affect January exams if concerns are not aptly addressed. Dr. Grady said: “There could be a second wave if we don’t get a sustainable, long-term and fair offer from employers.”

The current spate of strike action is estimated to have impacted at least one million students. Over 43,000 members of university staff spread across 60 UK institutions are partaking in the eight days of strike action.

Dr Grady highlighted that, while the higher education sector had “made a lot of money over the past 10 years”, the spending on staff in the same period had decreased. Pension reforms mean university staff will pay about £40,000 more into their pension but receive nearly £200,000 less in retirement, the UCU says. Research by UCU states that average academic pay has fallen by 17% in real terms since 2009.

The ongoing strike action is a partial hangover from the events of last year, when staff at 65 universities voted to strike over pension changes in February. However, the strikes have expanded to include stagnating pay, insecure contracts, and a spiraling workload driven by demanding targets. The strikes represent a challenge to the marketisation process that has resulted in investment priorities being diverted elsewhere.
The strikes have received a broadly encouraging level of support from students, with the consensus constituting a mixture of sympathy and frustration. Many students have demanded refunds for lost teaching and learning time.
Eoin Stothart, a History and Politics student at the University of Manchester, said: “Although I support lecturers protecting their livelihood, reimbursement would stop students being unfairly affected”.

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