University and College Union have announced that 14 days of industrial action will take place across 74 higher educational institutions over February and March this year.
These upcoming strikes will be the second round of industrial action to hit the University of Manchester this academic year, following on from eight days of strikes in November and December 2019.
The ongoing industrial action is the result of two major disputes between the UCU and University senior leadership, which are still unresolved as of winter 2019.
These disputes at the centre of the action are in regard to the sustainability of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and rising costs for members, and on universities’ failure to make significant improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.
The full strike dates are as follows:
Week one – Thursday 20 & Friday 21 February
Week two – Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 February
Week three – Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March
Week four – Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March
UCU members across 60 universities including The University of Manchester also took strike action earlier on in the academic year that affected millions of students up and down the country.
The University of Manchester told The Mancunion: “In view of the progress in the negotiations it had been our hope that further action would not be taken. We are surprised and very disappointed with this decision while all sides are still involved in discussions to resolve the issues, and indeed UCU has fed back positively on these discussions.
“While we recognise the rights of UCU members to take industrial action our priority remains to minimise any impact on our students.
“Information for staff and students will be made available and we will provide them with regular updates.”
The upcoming industrial action will affect an added 14 universities as more UCU branches crossed a 50% turnout threshold required by law for them to take industrial action. This increased participation means the total of affected students across the UK will rise by 20,000.
Josie, a third year undergraduate at the University of Manchester, told The Mancunion that she feels the strikes are having a negative impact on the student experience, with little being done to compensate for the lost teaching hours:
“It makes it very difficult to support the lecturers because out of the six semesters I have been studying at UoM, half of them have been or will be affected by strikes and students have had no compensation for this.”
UCU has also issued a warning that if the current disputes are not resolved that strike action could continue until the end of the academic year. However, as mandates are valid for no more than 6 months, branches like Manchester that took strike action would be required to secure fresh mandates to continue industrial action in April
The Union also reports that alongside strike days, union members are taking part in “action short of a strike”. This initiative means that union workers will be working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.
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.”