UCU voting turnout prevents further national strike action

By and

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) have voted nationally in favour of further strike action for pay and working conditions. However, the voting turn out was below the legal minimum of 50% to impose a strike mandate and therefore staff are unable to take strike action. 

The vote follows a year of industrial action by the Union, which saw strike action in every academic term, including 18 days of strike action in Epiphany term, and a Marking and Assessment Boycott which meant many students are only receiving their degree results in November. 

43% of UCU members across 140 universities voted in the ballot which closed on Friday 3rd November. 68% of those who voted, voted in favour of strike action for pay and working conditions. 75% of voters backed other potential forms of industrial action.

The ballot was the fifth national higher education ballot that the union has run in just over a year. 

On announcing the ballot result on their website, the UCU has criticised the UK Government’s trade Union laws, labelling them as “anti-democratic” and “restrictive,” while also pointing out that their voting figures posed a higher percentage turnout than last month’s local elections. 

These changes, introduced in 2014, mean that 50% of members entitled to vote must do so for ballots on industrial action to be valid. 

Voter turnout has fallen from 57.8% to 43% since October last year

This announcement comes after the UCU voted to end their dispute over pensions last month. Members voted to end the dispute after it was announced that pension benefits would be restored by April next year. 

Voter turnout has seen a dramatic fall since this time last year, when 57.8% of members voted in the ballot for strike action, with an overwhelming 81% of those voting in favour. 

In a statement via the UCU website, general secretary Jo Grady said, “The national ballot results show university staff support taking action over pay and conditions. However, anti-democratic restrictions, which single out trade unions for special treatment, mean no action can take place.”

Raj Jethwa, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), said: “Now that the ballot is over, unions and employers need to find common ground on the issues that the sector is grappling with.

“UCEA’s priority is to work with UCU and the other four trade unions (EIS, GMB, UNISON and Unite) on a number of important matters.

“Good progress was made earlier in the year on the review of the pay spine, workload, contract types and further action to reduce the already falling pay gaps in the sector. UCEA is ready and waiting to resume this work with the unions.

“We also urge all trade unions to join us in prioritising the independent review of sector finances.

“A crucial element of resetting industrial relations in the sector is developing a shared understanding of affordability. For the sake of students and staff alike, it is now vital to work together to end the sector’s recent cycle of industrial disputes.”

Image: Thomas Thomlinson

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