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7th September 2023

Nine days of strike action planned for start of term

Further disruption as UCU announce strikes on 19-22 September and 25-29 September, coinciding with first two weeks of term
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Nine days of strike action planned for start of term
Photo: Shikhar Talwar @ The Mancunion

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced an additional nine days of strike action at the University of Manchester.  

Five strike days from September 25 to 29 are planned across the country, but the University of Manchester has an additional four days from September 19 to 22, coinciding with freshers week, due to “punitive pay deductions” applied to staff who participated in the marking and assessment boycott (MAB).  

The UCU also announced that the marking and assessment boycott (MAB), which has been ongoing since April 20, has now been halted.  

The UCU’s current mandate lasts until October 1, so the nine strike days are before they need to reballot. Universities will be reballoted in the coming weeks, meaning that the UCU may escalate strike action into the remainder of 2023 and into 2024.  

The marking and assessment boycott had been causing concern among many students across the country, particularly third years who were left with graduation uncertainty as the boycott continued. 

Postgraduate students should be able to receive their dissertation grades as planned, as the boycott has ended in a timely fashion for the marking period to begin.  

Jo Grady, general secretary of the UCU said, “We are left with no option but to strike during the start of term because our members refuse to stand by while pay is eroded and staff are shunted onto gig-economy contracts”.  

Furthermore, Jo Grady declared, “If they do not [agree to UCU demands], campuses will be marred by picket lines during fresher’s week, and we will launch a new strike ballot allowing us to take action well into 2024”. 

The University of Manchester confirmed to The Mancunion that constructive talks have been had with the UMUCU, the local branch executive of the UCU.  

In their statement, a university spokesperson said, “We have agreed that all colleagues who reported their participation in MAB after June 9 and whose pay has currently been withheld at 100% from June 12, will now move to have their pay withheld at 50% in line with colleagues who reported by June 9. 

We have also agreed that any pay withheld at 100% between June 12 to date will be restored to 50% and the necessary pay adjustments will be made in September payroll”. 

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association, which the UCU has it’s dispute with, made this statement: “UCEA welcomes the vote by UCU members to end the marking and assessment boycott. The result, with 60% voting to stop the boycott, suggests that UCU members no longer wish to support the HEC’s tactic of inflicting harm on students. 

UCU is intentionally seeking to target the important welcome weeks which many institutions provide during this vital time for new students. It is disappointing that UCU seeks to disrupt welcome weeks instead of providing support for new students.” 

The UMUCU had this to say when contacted for comment: “UMUCU has met with the management many times and attempted to negotiate suitable deductions which were linked more clearly to labour withdrawn.

The SLT did not engage in the negotiation process and refused to discuss terms.

We are on strike locally because of these punitive pay deductions, in the hopes that the management will see reason and give back some of our money in exchange for calling them off.

Agreements have been reached in other institutions to deduct in a reasonable and humane way.

These graduating third years have suffered a lot and we are truly sorry that our action added uncertainty to their lives this year. We were begging UCEA to come to the table and end the dispute by meeting our very modest demands, and we really thought they’d care enough about students to do so.”

It is appalling that they continue to cut our pay and do nothing about casualisation, equalities or workload during a cost-of-living crisis.”

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