UK universities to be hit by 'biggest ever' trio of staff strikes in November

University staff on strike outside Birmingham University.
University staff have voted to strike over three days in November. Credit: PA

More than 70,000 lecturers and other staff at 150 universities will strike for three days later this month in a long-running dispute over pay, working conditions and pensions.

The University and College Union (UCU) said the strikes - on November 24, 25 and 30 - will be the biggest ever to hit UK universities and could impact 2.5 million students.

According to the union, disruption can be avoided if employers make improved offers, but it warned that strike action will escalate in the new year - alongside a marking and assessment boycott - if the dispute is not resolved.

Union members will also begin industrial action short of striking from November 23, which includes working to rule, refusing to make up work lost as a result of strike action and declining to cover for absent colleagues.

Last month, UCU members overwhelmingly voted in favour of industrial action, in two national ballots over pay and working conditions as well as pensions.

UCU General Secretary Jo Grady said: "Campuses across the UK are about to experience strike action on a scale never seen before. 70,000 staff will walk out and make clear they refuse to accept falling pay, cuts to pensions and insecure employment.

"This is not a dispute about affordability - it is about choices. Vice-chancellors are choosing to pay themselves hundreds of thousands of pounds whilst forcing our members onto low paid and insecure contracts that leave some using foodbanks. They choose to hold billions in surpluses whilst slashing staff pensions.

"UCU members do not want to strike but are doing so to save the sector and win dignity at work. This dispute has the mass support of students because they know their learning conditions are our members’ working conditions."

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In response to UCU's planned dates of strike action, Raj Jethwa, Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) Chief Executive said: "There will be disappointment across the sector at UCU’s decision to call three days of strike action later this month.

"All HE [Higher Education] institutions fully recognise the inflationary pressures currently facing staff.

"While UCEA is not proposing to re-open the 2022-23 pay round, which our member HE institutions have consistently confirmed as fully concluded, we are consulting on the possibility of bringing forward the New JNCHES 2023-24 pay negotiations."

Mr Jethwa added: "Any threats of industrial action will do nothing to support students, staff or the many HE institutions working hard to avoid redundancies or maintain staffing levels, having delivered the August pay uplift."

On pay and working conditions, the UCU is calling for a "meaningful" pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis and action to end the use of "insecure" contracts.

The union said employers imposed a 3% pay rise this year, following more than a decade of below inflation pay awards.

In the pension dispute, UCU is demanding employers revoke a "package of cuts" made earlier this year, which it claims will see the average union member lose 35% from their guaranteed future retirement income.