UCU Strikes: Members of Staff Answer Your Questions

In the first of our new series on the upcoming University and Colleges Union strike action, members of staff answer your burning questions.

Why Are My Lecturers Striking?

The University’s management association (Universities UK) wants to make a massive change to the pension scheme for all academic staff and academic-related staff (e.g. librarians, student counsellors, IT staff, etc.).

Under current proposals, staff will lose up to 40% of their pension. And even the VCs of Warwick, Loughborough, and Glasgow have come out against them, realising that these changes will hurt staff and students. The NUS has also come out against these cuts, expressing concerns they will make UK Universities less attractive to national and international talent, thereby damaging their reputation and making them less competitive.


Isn’t there an alternative to striking?

Yes, there is an alternative. If the University management association would enter negotiations – something that they have refused to do since making their derisory offer in November – then this dispute could be resolved. The Union has repeatedly called on management to enter negotiations, even offering to refer the dispute to ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), but the administration won’t budge. So staff are out of options.


How will the strike affect me?

The UCU has called for 14 days of strike action across 4 weeks, starting 22 & 23 Feb (further dates are available here). During this time, UCU members won’t be: teaching, holding office hours, marking, answering emails. The work missed in this period, including teaching, will not be rescheduled—it will just be gone.

‘Action short of a strike’ begins 22 Feb. This means staff will be ‘working to contract’, so they will only work the 40 hours per week in our contracts (most academics work 60+ hours because they love teaching and researching).


Will I be examined or forced to write essays on things I’ve missed? Will my classes be made up? Will exams be disrupted?

The short answer is we don’t know. It depends on how long the strike continues, which depends on whether management are willing to negotiate. BUT remember, you are not alone. This is a national dispute. Sixty-one of the oldest Universities in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are going on strike. This includes Oxford, Cambridge, King’s, UCL and most of the Universities formed before 1992. Because every student in these Universities are in the same boat, the onus is on Universities to develop policies to make sure you’re taken care of.

However, they are unlikely to develop and implement these unless the student body puts pressure on management to explain their contingency plans. By holding them to account for your education, you will ensure that you are looked after.


Will I lose my year or not graduate?

We certainly hope not. Lecturers, support staff and the UCU will be doing everything they can to make sure this strike is brought to a successful conclusion as quickly as possible


I’ve paid my tuition. Why am I not being taught?

From the outset we have argued against student fees, we wrote letters to our MPs, we took part in the protests. We think fees are a very bad idea. If we had our way your education would be paid for by the State – even if that meant less money going to the central University.

Lecturers don’t want to strike! They want to be teaching you, publishing their research, engaging with the public. That is the part of the job that they enjoy.

Striking is not a holiday! Striking means members of staff are not paid. Like you, they all have to pay for rents, mortgages, childcare, food, and electricity. They risk losing their houses, their children’s places in childcare, and many of them pay for the care of their parents or other loved ones. All of this is at risk because of the intransigence of the University management association.


Do Strikes work?

They really do! Just this past year, cleaning staff at LSE and SOAS won huge concessions following a strike. At UCL students undertook a rent strike and saw significant reductions in their cost of accomodation. But what connects these together is their ability to develop solidarity with others like university staff and students. In other words, strikes work, but only if we’re united.


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