UCU Strikes Again: UCL staff set to strike for FOURTEEN days

UCL UCU members to strike over pensions, welfare payments and unsatisfactory working conditions


Starting on Thursday 20th February, UCL will take part in fourteen days of strike action. Unlike the last eight day strike, which took place between Monday 25th November and Wednesday 4th December 2019, this strike will be staggered over a four week period.

The strike dates are (UCU.org):

Week one – Thursday 20th – Friday 21st February

Week two – Monday 24th – Wednesday 26th February

Week three – Monday 2nd – Thursday 5th March

Week four – Monday 9th – Friday 13th March

A total of 60 universities participated in the 2019 strikes, affecting an estimated one million students. 74 universities will participate in the upcoming strikes, impacting an extra 200,000 students.

The issues of the upcoming strikes remain the same as those which resulted in the 2019 strikes. In the 2019 strike ballot, 79% of UCU members backed strike action over changes to pensions, while 74% supported action over pay, equality, casualisation and increasing workloads.

UCL is one of 47 universities taking strike action over both of these disputes.

Alongside taking strike days, 'action short of a strike' will also be taken. For instance, staff members will not cover for absent colleagues and will not reschedule any lectures missed during the strikes.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady indicated that, if the disputes are not resolved, strike action may continue to occur for the rest of the academic year. UCL would have to secure a new strike mandate for such action to continue after April, as strike mandates are only valid for six months.

Grady emphasised that "if universities want to avoid further disruption they need to deal with rising pension costs, and address the problems over pay and conditions."

Although students are aware of the reasons for the strikes, and support UCL staff, there is a general sense of frustration.

First year student, Amanda Albien's statement of "I'm a poor bitch. I want my money back," is a sentiment felt by a lot of the student body.

International student, Cannelle Revault held similar financial frustrations, feeling "conflicted." She stated that while she understands the reasons for the strike, with international fees she's probably "lost something close to $5,000," when adding up all of the hours lost to past and upcoming strike action.

Morgan Paulett also held such monetary concerns, stating that "as students many of us feel financial squeezes very acutely." However, Paulett highlighted how students should act in solidarity with tutors who are most likely experiencing financial troubles after "ten years without a pay rise, whilst inflation hasn't waited for them."

Paulett made the claim that if we support our lecturers and tutors now, they will continue to offer students support when needed, for instance "in the event of any rent strikes in the future" – high/unaffordable student accommodation prices being a major issue at UCL.

One international masters student expressed their frustration at the continuation of strike action, which is taking a "huge toll" on their studies, by cutting down the few hours they have with their professors. The student stated: "I quit a good job, went through my savings (and took out loans) and uprooted mine and my partner's life to come to this school". Despite this, like the majority of students, they emphasised that they "do not fault the staff" as it "is on UCL to make this right for everyone."

One way to support the strikes is to write to UCL to request a refund for the lost days of tuition, increasing the impact of members of staff striking, by putting financial pressure on the university.

The deadline to apply for the UCL Learning Opportunities Fund, set up following the 2019 strikes, is Sunday 9th February.

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