On the 22nd of February, strikes are set to occur at 61 UK universities; including the University of Bath. The dispute is primarily between the University and College Union (staff representation) and Universities UK (university representation) over changes to staff pensions. The UCU has estimated that the average lecturer would lose approximately £10,000 a year in retirement under the changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) that UUK wants.
In a recent statement from UCU general secretary Sally Hunt, she claimed, “in negotiations UUK refused to budge from that position and, understandably furious at the proposals, university staff voted in record numbers for strike action to defend their pensions. We have reached the unlikely stage where some university vice-chancellors are even publicly criticising UUK for the severity of the proposals and the refusal to negotiate with UCU. We hope more vice-chancellors will speak out and those rational voices will finally start to be heard over at UUK HQ.”
Last week, The SU held a poll to determine what their stance would be on the matter. The question at hand was: “Should The SU support the UCU strike?”:
- 41% of students voted for the motion
- 54% of students voted against the motion
- 5% of students abstained
SU President, Ben Davies, has stated: “We fully understand and respect UCU’s decision to strike and it is vitally important for UCU’s voice to be heard and for negotiations to resume nationally.
“However, students have told us that they want The SU to represent their immediate interests first and foremost, which is why, due to the impact strike action of this scale could have on their education, we cannot support UCU’s strike action.
“We will continue to work with UCU and the University to make sure students’ voices are heard and that the University is communicating any actions that may impact students. We will also ensure any impacts of the strike action are being properly mitigated against.
“We also appreciate that some of our postgraduate research students are also members of UCU and will ensure we offer them our support where we can.”
Despite the escalating tension from both sides, on Monday morning the UUK Chief decided not to mention the strikes when given the opportunity to discuss the challenges facing universities. As the strikes loom closer, compromise seems ever less likely.
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