The UCU (University and College Union) has announced another 14 days of staff strikes in February and March. This follows on from 2 weeks of strikes which disrupted teaching in November and December last year.
The reasons for the strikes remain the same as those cited last year, as UCU members believe insufficient action has been taken to act on the issues raised. The issues are focussed around pay, equality, casualisation of contracts and workloads, as well as changes in the USS pensions scheme.
This time the strikes will stretch across several weeks. They are intended to escalate each week, finishing with a week long walkout in the week starting on the 9th March if disputes are not resolved. The full dates are listed as:
Week one – Thursday 20 & Friday 21 February
Week two – Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 February
Week three – Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March
Week four – Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March
These come in the middle of the second semester for Bath students, however if disputes are still not resolved, the UCU plans on having a fresh ballot for further action later in the academic year, which creates the possibility of strikes in exam time for Bath students. However, these strikes appear to be a symptom of a nationwide problem with teaching conditions in universities, with 74 universities reaching the 50% threshold for strike action, 14 more than reached the threshold to strike in November. It appears currently as though strike action will only continue to occur until the issues raised by university staff are taken into account by universities.
The University of Bath UCU branch President, Dr. David S. Moon, comments on the reasons for the strike below:
“The University and College Union (UCU) is currently engaged in two national disputes: the ‘Four Fights’ dispute, over pay, workload, equality and job security, and a dispute over USS pensions. At its meeting last Thursday, the elected reps on UCU’s national higher education committee (HEC) voted for 14 further days of strike action in both disputes – which will impact seventy four universities across the UK, including the University of Bath – if a negotiated deal cannot be reached to resolve these disputes beforehand.
Strike action is always a last resort and Bath UCU hopes a fair, acceptable deal can be reached nationally that will resolve these disputes, calling off the strike. UCU members at Bath want to provide the best experience they can for students – our working conditions are your learning conditions. The branch recognises the progress made locally in our ongoing negotiations with the University of Bath regarding anti-casualisation, for example. However, this is a national dispute and can only be resolved at the national level, where employers’ representatives have yet to offer concrete commitments on pensions, pay or workloads that can be put to members.
As always, staff at the University of Bath are acutely aware of how these strikes affect our students. The decision to go on strike is never taken lightly. That is why we are calling on the Vice Chancellor to continue to put pressure upon employers’ national representatives to reach a reasonable and fair deal to resolve this situation and remove the threat of strike action.”