University of Leeds staff to go on strike for eight days

Staff at the University of Leeds are to strike for eight days in disputes over pay and pensions.
Members of the University and College Union on strike in February 2018.Members of the University and College Union on strike in February 2018.
Members of the University and College Union on strike in February 2018.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will walk out between November 25 and December 4 following votes in favour of industrial action.

The strikes will hit 60 universities across the UK, including at the University of York, University of Sheffield, University of Bradford and Sheffield Hallam University, as well as Leeds.

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UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "The first wave of strikes will hit universities later this month unless the employers start talking to us seriously about how they are going to deal with rising pension costs and declining pay and conditions.

"Universities can be in no doubt about the strength of feeling on these issues and we will be consulting branches whose desire to strike was frustrated by anti-union laws about reballoting."

Last week, UCU members backed strike action in two separate disputes, one on pensions and one on pay and working conditions.

Overall, 79 percent of UCU members who voted backed strike action in the ballot over changes to pensions.

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In the ballot on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads, 74 percent of members backed strike action.

As well as the eight strike days from November 25, union members will begin other forms of industrial action when they return to work.

This will include working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

A spokesman for Universities UK, which represents employers in the pensions dispute, said they are hopeful the issue can be resolved without industrial action, but that plans are in place to ensure any potential disruption to staff and students is minimised.

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"The resolution to the 2018 Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) valuation is both fair and reasonable, with the additional costs of maintaining the current level of benefits shared 65:35 by employers and scheme members", he said.

"It's important to note that the number of UCU members who voted for strike action over pensions accounts for less than 10 percent of the active membership of USS."

The spokesman added: "We are committed to ensuring USS remains one of the very best pension schemes in the country, and hope that UCU will now join us to consider governance reforms and alternative options for future valuations, which deliver a shared set of principles, increased transparency and a sustainable scheme."

A spokesman for UCEA, which represents employers in the pay dispute said: "Having achieved strike votes in only 57 of the 147 HE institutions where it balloted, we are dismayed to see UCU's decision to ask its members to take such extensive and damaging strike action over its national pay demands.

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"This is after UCU has failed to secure its members' support in the large majority (90) of HE institutions where it also balloted following a big campaign over nearly two months."

He added: "It is completely unrealistic in the collective pay arrangements for UCU to attempt to force all 147 employers to re-open the concluded 2019-20 national pay round.

"The outcome was already at the very limit of what is affordable and the ballots confirm that the vast majority of employees in these institutions understand the challenging context."

The pensions strike is over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which UCU says will leave members paying in more and receiving less in retirement.

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And industrial action on pay is over what UCU describes as "universities failure to make improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads".

UCU held a series of strikes last year over pensions which affected universities around the UK.