UCU cancels two weeks worth of strikes due to successful negotiations
The union is preparing for ‘intensive negotiations’ with universities
The UCU has announced a two-week cancellation of the strikes, meaning a total of seven days of strike action will now not occur. So far in 2023, there have already been nine days of striking across 150 UK universities, including the University of Edinburgh.
Strikes have been halted thanks to “breakthroughs” in talks with university employers. The UCU’s General Secretary, Jo Grady, has outlined the “significant progress” in these negotiations.
The strikes were called due to disagreements between universities and staff regarding pay and working conditions, as well as changes to staff pension schemes, and was heralded as “the biggest series of strikes ever to hit UK university campuses”. The UCU also said that strike-days after the two-week period are all still scheduled to “put pressure on the employers”.
The Cancelled Strike-Days:
Tuesday 21 February
Wednesday 22 February
Thursday 23 February
Monday 27 February
Tuesday 28 February
Wednesday 1 March
Thursday 2 March
Scheduled Strike-Days Remaining:
Thursday 16 March
Friday 17 March
Monday 20 March
Tuesday 21 March
Wednesday 22 March
The pay and working conditions dispute is based on three issues: tackling “casualisation” or the proliferation of zero-hour contracts, reducing workloads and improving work/life balance, and finally, pay gaps. The UCU stated that they have already made progress on the pay scales, eliminating the lowest pay scale level. However, it also states that negotiations are working off the basis of “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, meaning the UCU expects all demands to be met, or will carry on with further strike action.
Jo Grady, the General Secretary of the University and College Union, confirmed the cancellation: “we have jointly agreed a two week period of calm which will enable us to hold intensive negotiations with the aim of delivering a final agreement”. However, she also emphasised that the pause of strike action is “simply a pause”, and that the UCU plans to continue strike action if negotiations fall through, and will be “continuing with the campaign” to renew the strike mandate from the UCU membership for another six months regardless. She added the UCU is “prepared to escalate further”
Whilst the UCU campaigns for “yes” on the coming reballot to renew strike action for another six months, there have also been rumors of a marking ban coming into force for the 2023 exams season. Defined as “actions short of a strike”, or ASOS, the marking ban would halt “all marking and assessment processes that contribute to summative assessment decisions for students/learners, whether final (i.e. graduation/completion) or interim (i.e. progression decisions)”, and also ‘assessment-related work”, such as invigilation and distribution exam papers.
The reballot will close on the 31st of March, at which point whether the UCU’s strike mandate will either be extended or rescinded.