Staff at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) are set to strike for three days next week over pay and working conditions, with there being the prospect of more strikes in the new year if disputes are not resolved.
UCLan will be one of 58 UK universities to be hit by strikes between December 1- December 3, after UCU members backed strike action in two separate ballots earlier this month, one over pension cuts and one over pay and working conditions.
UCU members at UCLan, as well as 20 other institutions, are striking over pay and working conditions alone as they are not affected by the cuts to USS pensions, whilst 33 universities are striking over pensions and pay, and four over just pensions.
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A spokesperson for UCLan said: “Following the recent national strike ballots in relation to the 2021/22 pay award, UCU has confirmed that strike action will take place at UCLan over three days in December 2021. Action Short of a Strike (i.e. working to contract) will run continuously from 1 December.
“The decision to strike is very disappointing and first and foremost our concern is for our students. They have already been through a period of considerable uncertainty and disruption due to the pandemic so we will do everything we can to minimise the strike’s impact by putting contingency plans in place.”
The spokesperson added that the nationally negotiated 2021-22 pay award for all university staff provided above inflation base pay increases for all of between 1.5 and 3.6%, and over half of the employees covered by these negotiations were also eligible to receive progression pay increases averaging 3%.
Martyn Moss, UCU North West Regional Official said: "UCU members at the University of Central Lancashire are joining colleagues at dozens of other campuses across the UK for three consecutive days of strike action from Wednesday 1 December over the low pay, insecure contracts, inequality and unbearably high workloads that blight higher education.
"We have told vice chancellors what they have to do resolve this dispute. But if employers remain intent on exploiting staff who have kept this sector afloat during a pandemic then they will see further industrial action in the spring term.'
Staff at 64 universities are also set to take action short of strike from Wednesday 1 December, which will include strictly working to contract and refusing any additional duties, and is set to go on indefinitely for the five months staff have a mandate to take industrial action for.
Strike ballots were open at 147 UK universities between Monday 18 October and November 8, and 70% of UCU members who voted in the pay and working conditions ballot backed strike action, and 85% backed action short of strike, with a turnout of 51%.
Meanwhile the overall turnout on the pension ballot was 53%, with 76% backing strike action, and 88% action short or strike.
According to the UCU, the decision to strike over pay and working conditions comes as, nationally, staff pay has fallen by 20% after twelve years of below inflation pay offers, and one third of academic staff are on insecure contracts, whilst staff are also experiencing a crisis of work-related stress with over half showing probable signs of depression.
In addition, the gender pay gap sits at 15% and the most recent Higher Education Statistics Agency figures reveal that, of 22,810 professors in the UK, under a third were women and only 1% were Black.
UCU is demanding a £2.5k pay increase for all staff; an end to race, gender and disability pay injustice; a framework to eliminate zero-hours and other casualised contracts; and meaningful action to tackle unmanageable workloads,
It appears that students are backing the UCU's strike call as research undertaken by the National Union of Students, published on November 16, found 73% of students supported the strike action, and just 9% of opposed, whilst a further two-thirds said they would be willing to take part in some sort of action themselves to campaign for funded, accessible, lifelong and democratised education.
NUS President Larissa Kennedy said: “Students have a rich history of standing shoulder to shoulder with university staff, who have seen their pensions, pay and conditions slashed in recent years, so I’m not surprised that they overwhelmingly support their campaign to secure a fairer settlement.
"With vice chancellors' average total pay packets rising to £269,000 per year, it's clear employers can afford to resolve their dispute with UCU over staff pay, which has fallen by an average of 20% in real terms since 2009. Staff teaching conditions are student learning conditions, and we mustn't forget many postgraduate students on casualised teaching contracts will be striking. The onus for minimising disruption for students lies with university bosses: they must come back to the table to address the clear issues in how higher education is currently run."
University staff previously took the largest strike action UK higher education has ever seen in 2020 over the same issues.