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12th October 2023

UCU Strikes: What you need to know

Here’s a basic rundown of what you need to know about the UCU strikes
UCU Strikes: What you need to know
UCU picket line. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve just started your first year in Manchester, you’re studying abroad here for the first time, or you’re a third year who lives under a rock, you’ll probably have questions about the UCU strikes. Here’s a simple explanation of everything you need to know:

Which groups are involved? 

Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA): the organisation representing universities and colleges in national negotiations.

Universities UK (UUK): the collective voice of universities in the UK.

University and College Union (UCU): a trade union which represents academics and staff employed by universities and colleges.

Why are my lecturers striking?

Strikes are voted on by members of the UCU. They began in 2018 after a dispute about proposed deductions to staff pensions. More recent strikes have also been motivated by what the UCU has summarised as the “four fights”:

  1. The UCU argue that pay has not kept up with the cost of living alongside rising inflation and demand a pay rise at least in line with inflation (RPI) plus 2%.
  2. Action to rectify pay gaps in gender, race, and disability.
  3. The elimination of precarious forms of employment such as zero-hour contracts.
  4. Action to address unmanageable workloads which recognises the amount of unpaid work done and the stress caused.

How would I be affected by strikes?

It’s not quite as simple as getting to have a lie-in instead of going to your 9am. The reality is that striking staff don’t get paid, you don’t get the teaching hours you are paying for, and you might not receive feedback on your assessments.

As stated by the UCU, striking is a last resort: “UCU members want to be at work, not on strike, but the future of higher education is under threat.”

Are there upcoming strikes?

While the MAB has been called off, and major progress has been made in the pension dispute, disputes about pay and working conditions are ongoing.

In response to deductions in pay for participants of the MAB, the Universities’ branch of the UCU (UMUCU) planned 9 days of strike action in September. These were called off after staff secured a 25% raise in deductions (therefore wage cuts remaining at 25%) and an agreement that all outstanding marking would be completed “where reasonably possible” by this Friday (October 13).

While there are currently no strikes officially planned, the UCU is asking its members to vote on whether to renew its mandate for industrial action, enabling strikes well into 2024. The vote closes on November 3.

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