UCU strikers on a London rally in November (Picture: Guy Smallman)

UCU union leaders have announced plans for 18 days of strikes by 70,000 workers at 150 universities. Workers are battling over pay, pensions, equality and conditions. Strikes were set to begin this Wednesday and continue on Thursday and Friday of next week.

The schedule then includes 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 27, and 28 February. This will be followed by 1, 2, 16,17, 20, 21 and 21 of March.

University workers have not received an above‑inflation pay offer for 13 years.

The strike plan is much more ambitious and harder hitting than any the UCU has had before. It has taken immense pressure and organisation by rank and file activists to force union leaders to back this programme of strikes.

UCU general ­secretary Jo Grady has tried consistently to undermine democratically-decided calls for an indefinite strike and effective marking and ­assessment boycotts.

Many UCU members in Branch Delegate Meetings have repeatedly backed ­escalating strikes.

It was this support that led the Higher Education Committee (HEC) to vote back all out strikes. Grady tried to push through a plan for far fewer strikes but was overturned.

The UCU Left ­organisation says, “This isn’t the all-out action that many in the union wanted to see, but it’s important that the dates are out. It is action on a scale that will worry our employers and will seriously disrupt Semester two in every ­institution in the UK.

“In every branch we need to be preparing to make this action as strong as possible

“It is also a problem that budget day is not one of the dates. The HEC voted for this date to be included. UCU should be part of that action,

“We may also need to revisit the issue of ­indefinite action. Make sure your branch passes the motion calling for a special HE sector conference so that we can come together and democratically decide our industrial strategy”.

Elections for the UCU vice president, treasurer and national executive are taking place now. For a list of candidates who want a fighting and democratic union go to uculeft.org

Outsourced workers join the action at London’s UCL

Security guards at University College London (UCL), who are outsourced to Bidvest Noonan, planned to strike alongside half a million workers on Wednesday.

Workers who are members of the IWGB union are battling university bosses to bring them in house, pay them at least £15 an hour and recognise their chosen union.

The IWGB says, “The strike is part of an ongoing worker-led campaign to bring an end to outsourcing, an exploitative and often highly racialised practice that creates a lower tier of workers who are denied the same basic pay, rights and treatment as directly employed staff.”

Striking security guard, Yusuf Nur, said, “I have young children and on the poverty pay I receive as an outsourced worker I am struggling to support them. I’ve been left with no choice but to strike—it’s the only way we can make our voices heard.

“After bullying, mistreatment and consistent basic errors with paying us our wages and pensions from Bidvest Noonan and neglect from UCL, we must fight for better conditions for each other and our families.”

Henry Chango Lopez, IWGB general secretary, says, “UCL has a £90 million yearly surplus which could be used to improve conditions for these workers, yet they chose to leave them struggling in poverty.”

Workers plan to take to picket lines at Malet Place from 6am and have said they will stand beside their fellow workers in the UCU union. They also plan to break open a treasure chest pinata.

Unison members set strikes at eight universities 

Members of the Unison union were set to stage a wave of three-day strikes in Higher Education from Wednesday of this week.

The rolling action begins with workers at Soas in central London, who were due to join the 1 February day of action.

Workers on strike include those who work in security, IT, libraries and administration.

Workers at Glasgow School of Art, Leeds Beckett University, Manchester Met University, Queen Margaret University, University of Brighton, University of Leeds and the University of the West of England are also scheduled to strike.

The workers are fighting a below-inflation pay offer for the 2021-2022 pay cycle.

They are also fighting another derisory offer for the following year’s pay deal, with further strikes planned to stop that.

The most recent offer tabled by employers would see workers’ pay rise between 5 and 8 percent—slashing everyone’s pay once inflation is taken into account.

Unison said, “The employers made a marginally improved offer which, compared to the original one, provides an improved—but still below-inflation—offer for those on and above spinal column point 42.

“However, it did nothing to address issues of poverty pay and declining pay for all.”

The strike plan now needs to be just the start of action to win.

For details of the strikes go here 

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