Bristol Uni strikes imminent as UCU votes in favour of industrial action

The national ballot ended with a historic result for university workers

On Monday, following a six-week balloting process, members of the University and College Union (UCU) voted overwhelmingly in favour of nationwide strike action. The nature of the vote means that all 150 universities on the ballot, including Bristol Uni, will be involved in the proposed industrial action.

81.1 per cent of UCU members voted “yes” to strike over pay and working conditions, whilst 84.9 per cent voted “yes” to strike over cuts to pensions.

The UCU is calling for the retraction of the 35 per cent cut to pensions made earlier this year, as well as a pay rise above the three per cent offered to meet the challenge of the cost-of-living crisis.

UCU says that UK universities can “more than afford to meet staff demands” as the sector accumulated £41.1bn of income last year. Bristol University recorded a £66.1 million surplus in 2021, angering many staff members struggling to keep up with the cost of inflation.

Whilst previously individual institutions were required to meet the 50% turnout threshold to enable action, both ballots were aggregated this time. This means that, if vice-chancellors do not enter negotiations with the union, instead of isolated walkouts there is the potential for united disruption involving 70,000 university staff across the whole country.

This makes the UCU the only union in higher education to secure a national mandate for action since the 2016 Trade Union Act was passed. Facing fierce opposition from both the Labour and Conservative party, the act has been condemned as authoritarian, making it harder for unions to undertake industrial action.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady has subsequently called for “serious negotiations” with vice-chancellors as it is “now 150 bosses against 70,000 university workers who are ready and willing to bring the entire sector to a standstill.”

It is currently unclear when the proposed action will take place, with the UCU meeting to decide its next steps on November 3rd.

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