Staff at University of Leeds among those voting for strike action over pay and working conditions

Staff at the University of Leeds are among those to have voted in favour of strike action over pay and working conditions.

Sunday, 7th November 2021, 4:45 pm

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at UK universities have been balloted, with more than one in seven - 70.1 per cent - backing strike action, and 84.9 per cent voting for action short of strikes.

The UCU said 52 branches beat the 50 per cent turnout threshold legally required for strike action.

The result threatens disruption at universities before the end of the year.

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Voting for strike action. Academics at the University of Leeds are among those to have voted to take action over pay and pensions. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The UCU has warned previously that a campaign of industrial action could stretch into the new year if the deadlocked row remains unresolved.

Union members also backed strike action in a separate dispute over pensions.

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Members of the UCU who took part voted 76 per cent in favour of strike action - with 88% in favour of action short of a strike.

The union's higher education committee (HEC) is expected to meet on November 12 to decide the next steps.

Following the separate ballots, staff at 58 universities could take strike action - 21 over pay, 33 over both pay and pensions, and four over pensions only.

The University of Leeds is among the institutions where a mandate was secured to strike over both pay and pensions.

The UCU claims that cuts to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pensions scheme would reduce the guaranteed retirement income of a typical member by 35 per cent.

It has also suggested that pay for university staff fell by 17.6 per cent relative to inflation between 2009 and 2019, and since then employers have made below-inflation offers, with the latest worth 1.5%.

The UCU held a series of walkouts in 2019 and early 2020 over pensions, pay and conditions, which affected universities across the UK. There was also action in 2018 amid an ongoing row over pensions.

Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, said: "This result is a clear vote of no confidence in the so-called leaders of our universities, with staff telling them in no uncertain terms that they have had enough of pay and working conditions being run into the ground.”

She added: “It is scandalous that university vice-chancellors on overinflated salaries seem to think doing nothing on pay, casualisation and inequality is acceptable in a sector awash with money.

"We truly hope that disruption can be avoided, that is what staff and students alike all want. But this is entirely in the gift of employers who simply need to end their attacks on pensions, pay and working conditions and finally demonstrate they value their staff."

Raj Jethwa, chief executive of employers association UCEA, said: "UCEA has read the low turnouts in the UCUs' ballots of their members over the 2021-22 pay award as a clear indication that the great majority of university union members as well as wider HE employees understand the financial realities for their institution.

"These disaggregated ballot results are disappointing for UCU and their HEC now faces awkward discussions and has very difficult decisions to make regarding strike action.

"The low ballot numbers follow a six-month period of delay since UCEA's pay offer for UCU to prepare and campaign for strike action clearly targeting students during the autumn term."

On the results of the pensions ballot, Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, vice-president for higher education at the National Union of Students (NUS), said: "NUS stands in solidarity with staff who have voted for industrial action over these past few weeks."

She added: "Staff working conditions are our learning conditions, and we must stand together if we are to realise a system that is truly student-centered and democratised."

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