Manchester UCU staff, along with academics from 67 other universities, are going to strike again for five days from March 28 to April 1 over the four fights dispute. This is the third set of strike action taken by University of Manchester staff this year over the four fights, which include pay, workload, casualisation and inequality.
University of Manchester students have already lost eight days of teaching to strike action this academic year, with strikes from December 1-3 and five non-consecutive days in March. The UCU have predicted one million students will be affected by the strike action across the UK. The UMUCU have said “This shouldn’t have to happen. Employers could prevent this …”.
The UCU are striking over the four fights as “Over 70,000 academics are employed on insecure contracts. The gender pay gap in UK universities sits at 16%, whilst the disability pay gap is 9% and the race pay gap is up to 17%.”
In the pay and working conditions dispute the union is demanding an end to race, gender and disability pay injustice; a framework to eliminate zero-hours and other insecure contracts; and meaningful action to tackle unmanageable workloads; as well as a £2.5k pay rise for all university employees.
The union said universities can more than afford to meet the demands of staff. University finance figures show total income across the sector is around £41.9bn with reserves of £46.8bn.
🚨📢WE WILL BE TAKING A FURTHER FIVE DAYS OF STRIKE ACTION BETWEEN MONDAY 28 MARCH AND APRIL 1📢🚨— UMUCU (@UM_UCU) March 4, 2022
This shouldn't have to happen. Employers could prevent this at any time by negotiating meaningfully over pay and working conditions. Instead they treat us like dirt.
The UCU are also currently balloting for a strike mandate for the rest of 2022 – so the University of Manchester UCU branch are voting on whether to continue the four fights dispute and join the USS pensions dispute until April 8.
The USS pension scheme was updated in February. The University of Manchester stated that they will increase the amount the employer contributes to the scheme by 0.5% but also increase the amount that the staff contributes by 0.2%. The University suggested that this would improve the confidence of staff members in the pension scheme. However, the UCU doesn’t agreeing stating that these new changes see, “35% slashed from a typical member’s guaranteed retirement income. In the pension dispute, UCU is demanding that employers revoke their cuts and re-enter negotiations.”
If the UMUCU do vote to continue action short of a strike this year, this could include members boycotting marking and assessments, which according to the UCU “could stop hundreds of thousands of students from graduating”.
The UMUCU have thanked societies such as the North West Student Strikes for supporting them in March through fundraising gigs, for example.
The UCU General Secretary, Jo Grady has said: “By continuing to ignore the longstanding and serious concerns of staff, vice chancellors are not only pushing their own workforce to breaking point, but also doing serious harm to the future of higher education and preventing it from being the best it can be.”
A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “It is deeply regrettable that UCU members are taking industrial action and sharing what can only be described as erroneous and deliberate misinformation on the issues raised.
“At the University, we absolutely recognise how important pay and employment conditions are to colleagues and we take those views very seriously. However, inevitably any kind of industrial action causes serious disruption for all our community, particularly our students.
“As we always have, we will continue to have an open, honest and transparent dialogue with trade unions and their representatives where possible. But again we repeat that annual pay awards are negotiated nationally by UCEA and UUK respectively, so we are unable to make any changes at a local, Manchester level.
“We continue to work hard to address other aspects of employment which were raised in the ballot such as the nature of contracts and gender and ethnicity pay gaps. We’d like to reassure our students that we will do everything we can to minimise any impact on their teaching, learning and wider experience.”