Durham UCU staff back strike over pensions

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Durham’s University and College Union (UCU) members have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action, primarily over UCC (Universities Superannuation Scheme) pensions, as well as pay and working conditions. 

79% of UCU members at Durham who turned up to vote were in favour of the ballot on UCC pensions, which asked staff members whether they were prepared to ‘take industrial action consisting of strike action’ over the treatment of academic staff.

Additionally, 73% of members who turned up to vote supported direct strike action over pay, casualisation, equality and workloads. 



The news comes several months after the USS Joint Negotiating Committee backed proposals to increase the amount members contribute into their USS pension to 9.6%, compared to 8.8% at present. 

In a secondary vote, 89% Durham UCU members voted to support lesser strike action, ‘up to and including a marking and assessment boycott,’ surrounding pensions, with a further 73% supporting lesser strike action over pay and working conditions. 

Legally, while a 50% turnout locally is the minimum threshold for strike action to take place, Durham’s turnout stood at 53.6% and 53.9% for strike action over pensions, and pay and working conditions, respectively. 

79% of UCU members at Durham voted in favour of the ballot

With four universities yet to announce results, 41 universities have currently surpassed this 50% threshold.

Durham UCU President, Professor Sarah Elton, commented on the results: 

“The ballot results show the strength of feeling that UCU members at Durham have about equalities, casualisation, workload, pay and pensions.”

“We hope that this result focusses the minds of Vice-Chancellors and that Universities UK (UUK) is prepared to come back to the table and take these issues seriously before strike action becomes necessary. We urge our Vice-Chancellor to speak up in the interests of Durham staff in conversations with UUK.”   

The last significant UCU strike action, which took place in 2018, saw the cancellation of work for the University by involved staff members for 14 days across 4 weeks of Epiphany Term. 

2018 strike action affected 14 days across 4 weeks of Epiphany Term 

Although it remains to be seen whether today’s results will trigger further action, a statement issued by Durham Students’ Union last week affirmed that “should any action take place,” they would “endeavour to work closely with UCU and the University to minimise the impact of such action on students.”

Further updates on the implications of today’s results for Durham University are expected in the coming days. 

Image: Valentina Perzolla from Creative Commons via Flickr

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