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Teaching to be hit again by UCU strike next week

Staff at the University of Bristol are due to walk out for ten days later this month.

By Megan Evans, News Editor

Staff at the University of Bristol are due to walk out for ten days from next week.

In a continuation of last term’s industrial action, staff from 68 universities, including the University of Bristol, will once again go on strike in an ongoing dispute over pensions, pay, and working conditions.

The dispute primarily concerns the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which the UCU claims could see the average guaranteed retirement income of a university staff member reduced by 35 per cent, and the national pay award for 2021/22, which has seen over a 20 per cent decrease in real terms in the last 12 years.

The planned strike dates are as follows:
14-18 February: USS pensions dispute
21-22 February: USS pensions & pay and working conditions disputes
28 February – 2 March: pay and working conditions dispute

UCU members are also engaging in Action Short of Strike (ASOS), which has been ongoing since 1 December 2021 and will continue until 3 May 2022. This means that staff are working strictly to contracted hours and not taking on any additional work.

The UCU states that it is also considering the possibility of further action, including a ‘UK wide marking and assessment boycott.’

The final day of strike action on 2 March coincides with the National Union of Students (NUS) strike, which is both in support of the UCU’s demands and calls for further education to be free at the point of use for students.

The UCU has stated that strike action can only be averted by universities accepting counter proposals to the USS and awarding a £2.5k pay increase to all staff.

This wave of strikes includes an additional ten universities, following a successful UCU reballot at institutions that failed to reach the 50% turnout threshold in November.

In a statement, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'It is a damning indictment of the way our universities are managed that staff are being left with no option but to walk out again. For a sector that is worth tens of billions of pounds and enjoys record levels of student growth it is beyond disgraceful that in return staff get vicious pension cuts, falling pay and are pushed to breaking point under deteriorating working conditions.

'Time is quickly running out for vice chancellors to avert strike action, but it can be done. Staff need a proper pay rise, action to tackle insecure contracts, unsafe workloads and pay inequality, and for devastating pension cuts to be revoked. Any disruption that occurs will be the clearest indication yet that university bosses don't value their staff.

'This wave of strike action is a fight for the future of higher education and staff are proud to stand alongside students in the fight for an education system that treats students and staff with respect.'

In an email to all students, the University of Bristol has stated: ‘We have been trying hard to avoid this and are very disappointed that we have reached a point where industrial action is going ahead; however, we respect the right of our union member colleagues to act where they feel strongly about issues that affect them.

‘We also appreciate that you will be worried about the impact of the dispute on your studies.’

University libraries, study spaces, and support services will remain open throughout the strike.

Featured Image: Epigram / Holly Beaumont

Will you be crossing the picket lines?