“We will bring every University to a standstill”: UCU vote in favour of strike action


The University and College Union have been given the mandate to deliver strike action and action short of a strike, with their members voting “yes” to allow for strike action in a national ballot. 

Across two ballots members of the union voted overwhelmingly to strike, with 84.9% of members voting to strike in regards to pensions and 81.1% voting for strike action in regards to pay and working conditions. Both ballots reached the required 50% turnout requirement needed for national action. 

The vote represents the first time that the UCU secured a national mandate for strike action. Previously votes were done individually by branches allowing them to negotiate separate deals with their respective Universities. 

This will also be the first time a national deal will be needed to end any strike action, with local agreements being used beforehand. 

The union has called for a meaningful pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis and have demanded the 35% cut to pensions be revoked. 

Over 80% of members voted for strike action and action short of a strike

Durham experienced strikes and actions short of a strike throughout the year with strike action taking place in December, February and March last year. A marking boycott was called, but an agreement with the University prevented the boycott from taking place.

While the Durham Student Union did largely support the strike last year, Joe McGarry, the President of the Durham SU, said in a statement that he was “not intending to set the position myself, but plan to allow every student at Durham to vote in a referendum to set the position I’ll take”

UCU General Secretary, Jo Grady, who made the statement in a press conference, said “Today history has been made by our members in universities, who in huge numbers have delivered an unprecedented mandate for strike action.

“The vice chancellors who run universities have repeatedly and in a coordinated fashion come after our members. Well, now it’s 150 bosses against 70,000 university workers who are ready and willing to bring the entire sector to a standstill, if serious negotiations don’t start very soon.

“University workers who are ready and willing to bring the entire sector to a standstill”


“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.”

Durham’s own branch of the UCU also celebrated the result on Twitter, saying “Smashed it. All of you did this!”

In a further comment to Palatinate, the Durham UCU branch said “This was an aggregated ballot so we don’t know precisely what the result at Durham was. However, our local Get The Vote Out data suggests that 65% of members of Durham UCU voted (we only ask if they have voted or not). 

“This would make it the third ballot in the last 12 months where Durham UCU has crossed the threshold with a strong valid mandate with over 60% of members voting. We won’t know the precise form industrial action may take until there is democratic consultation of members and branches.”

The UCU’s higher education committee will meet on Thursday 3rd November to decide the next steps the union will take.

Image: Tim Packer

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