Over 70,000 university staff have overwhelmingly voted to strike after a ballot by the university lecturers’ union.

More than eight in ten of those who voted across 150 universities said ‘yes’ to strike action, which means the University and College Union (UCU) now have a mandate to strike.

Vice-chancellors are being urged to enter negotiations and make improved offers in order to avoid disruption.

The UCU say the result is a clear indication of the anger felt by university staff.

Union general secretary Jo Grady said: “Today history has been made by our members in universities, who in huge numbers have delivered an unprecedented mandate for strike action.

Strike picture
Higher education strikes rally. Accessed from Wikimedia commons, Creative Commons.

“University staff are crucial workers in communities up and down the UK. They are sending a clear message that they will not accept falling pay, insecure employment and attacks on pensions.

“They know their power and are ready to take back what is theirs from a sector raking in tens of billions of pounds.”

It is estimated that the university sector generated a record income of £41.1bn, with vice chancellors earning an estimated £45m collectively.

Students, including many who have supported previous strikes, could face lectures and seminars being rearranged or cancelled.

Universities UK, who represent 140 institutions, have said that they will try and reduce the impact of any possible strikes on students and staff members.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association chief executive Raj Jethwa was disappointed with the result of the ballot: “There needs to be a realistic assessment of what is possible.

“Institutions want to do more for their valuable staff, but any increase in pay puts jobs at risk. We hope UCU will carefully consider how to react to this ballot outcome.”

This is the first time a ballot by an education union has passed the legal threshold of 50% turnout across the country, which enables UCU to call a national strike, in contrast to previous strikes which only involved individual universities.

This follows the news of a fresh strike by Liverpool’s port workers, after talks regarding their pay dispute failed.

Port worker's rally - Coni Harpham
Port worker’s rally – Coni Harpham

Over 600 Unite members in Liverpool will now strike for two weeks.

Peel Ports chief operating officer David Huck said: “It’s hugely disappointing that Unite has staged yet another outdated show-of-hands mass meeting which has, very predictably, failed to support our improved 11% pay offer.

“This is the highest percentage increase of any port group in the UK by far and would see average annual pay rise to £43,275.”

However, Unite have accused board members at Peel Ports of intervening to prevent a proposed deal.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said talks “ended in farce, with the deal agreed between Unite and senior management being pulled by the board”.

She added: “Peel Ports’ untrustworthy behaviour and its attempts to threaten the workforce are only escalating the dispute.”

Featured image © Lorna Campbell 


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