UCU strikes announced in Cambridge, set to impact 10 days of Lent term

University staff will strike over the course of three weeks in February and March over pension and pay disputes

In a bulletin released today (27/1), the University and College Union (UCU) confirmed industrial action will take place at Cambridge from 14 – 18th February, 21st – 22nd February, and 28th February – 2nd March. The bulletin claims, “University staff are set to walk out for up to 10 days of strike action in two disputes over pensions and pay & working conditions.”

On those days, staff who are members of the UCU may refuse to hold lectures and stage protests in front of colleges and faculty buildings around Cambridge. The UCU bulletin also alleges that staff may refuse to “cover for absent colleagues, reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action, and undertake any voluntary activities.”

The UCU stated that they have decided to take industrial action against cuts to staff pensions, insecure work contracts, pay inequality, and unmanageable workloads. The UCU is also demanding a £2,500 pay rise for all staff, claiming that working conditions for academic staff is “beyond disgraceful” and that the education system must “treat students and staff with respect.”

University services may be affected by strikes in February and March (Image credits: Vedika Mandapati)

A student strike organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) will happen on 2nd March, coinciding with the last day of the UCU strikes. The UCU has stated its support for students and the NUS’ demands for fairer staff pay and free higher education.

In addition, the Cambridge Student Union alleged that some University teaching hours – including lectures and labs – will not take place as scheduled on strike days. The operations of the libraries of specific faculties and the University Library may be affected as well.

College-based supervisions, however, will not be impacted.

The Cambridge SU webpage covering the UCU strikes also alleges that “this will affect many students across the University.” The UCU bulletin itself suggested that “over a million students at 68 universities” will be impacted by the Lent strikes.

The UCU previously staged strikes in Cambridge for three days in early December 2021. Prior to that, Cambridge SU voted to “[stand] in solidarity with UCU workers.” 

A placard created by protestors attending the December UCU strikes in Cambridge (Image credits: Vedika Mandapati)

To resolve the pension dispute and avert the strikes, the UCU is demanding that employers revoke cuts to staff pensions and formally accept its counter-proposals. The UCU is set to meet employer representatives from Universities UK (UUK) on 11 February.

A University spokesperson asserted, “the University remains committed to working with its unions and continues with Cambridge UCU to press for the redesign of the Universities Superannuation Scheme with a view to achieving better outcomes for members and putting the scheme on a more sustainable footing.”

They also added that “the University deeply regrets the impact that industrial action will have on our students’ education – particularly given the challenges that so many have faced during the past two years.”

Feature image credits: Rosie Smart-Knight