University staff announce two-week strike pause as pay and pension talks develop

UCU Members demonstrating in Sheffield, 2016. Image credit: It’s No Game.

University staff have postponed scheduled strikes for two weeks with unions and universities hoping to make progress in their negotiations.

The University and College Union (UCU) announced the decision on February 17 as discussions over pay and pensions have developed with the University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA).

As a result, strikes planned for seven days between February 21 and March 2 will not go ahead. However, industrial action across the following two weeks are still scheduled to take place.

Jo Grady, UCU General Secretary, said that the decision was made in order to allow negotiations to continue in a ‘constructive environment’.

Ms Grady also emphasised the importance of continuing strike action after the pause. She said: “This will put pressure on the employers… we will be continuing with the campaign to deliver another massive YES vote in the re-ballot.”

Today, February 22, UCU members will receive ballot packages, voting on whether the Union should renew its mandate for industrial action. 

The union put further emphasis on this message on February 21 as it hosted a live YouTube event discussing the re-ballot.

During the event, Ms Grady displayed large banners outside the UCEA headquarters in London, highlighting key concerns of UCU. 

One banner criticised Bill Galvin, Chief Executive of Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) which organises university staff pensions. Ms Grady said: “Whilst we [staff] are getting a 35% pension cut, Bill gets a £108,021 bonus.”

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has been facilitating these negotiations between the two parties. 

In a joint statement, it was announced that there was agreement from all parties to revise the ‘pay spine’ currently in place. The statement also outlined “commitment to time-limited negotiations on contract types, workload, and pay gaps”.

National Education Union members have also been striking alongside university staff, demonstrating here at St. Peter’s Square, Manchester, last month. Image credit: Natasha Judge

The pause in industrial action comes as nurses have also announced a similar suspension of strikes, as stated by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on February 21. The next scheduled strikes were set to begin on March 1, lasting 48 hours. 

University strikes, which began last month, saw over 70,000 university staff walk out.

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