Freshers Week Disrupted: Staff at 40+ UK Universities on Picket Lines

United Kingdom Europe Higher Education News by Erudera News Sep 28, 2023

United Kingdom

Staff at more than 40 universities in the United Kingdom have joined strike over pay and working conditions, disrupting the freshers week, which is the period when new students begin studies at a UK university.

However, this action will be smaller as strikes have been canceled at dozens of universities following many employers agreeing to end punitive pay deductions, Erudera.com reports.

In a 22 September statement, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said employers have taken the right step by agreeing to cease punitive pay deductions, and some have also pledged to reimburse the amounts.

“We’re currently urging other vice-chancellors to follow suit, leading us to call off strike actions at numerous universities. Renewing our mandate and keeping the pressure on is the way we will win this dispute, but the strike action due to go ahead next week stands as a reminder to all employers that if you behave egregiously, you will face further disruption,” Grady said.

According to a BBC report, members of the University and College Union (UCU) at 36 universities will continue the action for five days, while staff will be striking for one day at 11 institutions.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), the employer body, has offered a pay award worth just 5 percent for most UCU members for the 2023/24 academic year.

This offer was rejected by UCU members, who, besides pay gaps, are asking for action on staff workloads. However, UCEA said that they have made the highest pay deal this year in nearly two decades.

A few days ago, UCU warned that Scottish universities might continue the strike action until the end of this year and also into 2024.

On September 26, the union informed that its members at the University of Manchester called off their strike action after reaching an agreement with management, under which 75 percent of any pay docked over the marking boycott would be returned.

“We have agreed to stand down strike action this week after management belatedly agreed to return some of the punitive wage deductions they made over summer in response to the marking boycott,” UCU regional official Matt Arrowsmith said.

Arrowsmith called on other universities to learn from Manchester’s experience, pointing out that the union members are always ready to negotiate, and striking is the last thing to do.

UK university staff have joined the strike since Tuesday, September 19, demanding better pay and working conditions. Action has been going on at over 140 universities nationwide in a long-running dispute over these issues.

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