Union Leader: UK Universities Should Apologize to Students if Learning Will Be Hindered Due to Staff Strike

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are expected to vote on strike action in the upcoming academic year following the decision of employers to cut their annual guaranteed pension benefits.

The general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), Jo Grady, has said that university leaders should apologize to students if their studies are disrupted due to the staff taking action before Christmas due to cuts to pension benefits.

“I don’t think staff should be apologising for the decisions of management. We are taking action because of the decisions of management,” Grady told the Guardian, pointing out that if anyone should say sorry for the situation, they are the university leaders.

Grady said that university staff has strengthened the education sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic but are now being rewarded with huge cuts to their pensions, high workloads, or below inflation payments.

Meanwhile, UCU has confirmed that strike ballots will open at UK universities as of Monday, October 18, over University Superannuation Scheme (USS) pay and pensions, working conditions, casualization, and equality failings, Erudera.com reports.

“The union’s higher education committee confirmed the timetable for a ballot of 152 institutions in total, seven will be balloted on USS only, 83 are to be balloted over pay and working conditions, with another 62 institutions in the UK facing two ballots over both USS and pay and working conditions,” a press release issued by UCU reads.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has supported the staff who are expected to vote on strike action. NUS President Larissa Kennedy said that staff working conditions are also students’ learning conditions.

“We demand fully funded, accessible, lifelong education where our spaces of teaching and learning belong to the students, staff and communities they exist to serve. Until then, it is entirely in the gift of vice chancellors and employers to come to a negotiated settlement and address the fundamental issues repeatedly raised by staff,” Kennedy said, pointing out that students will hold employers responsible if they don’t address issues raised by staff.

The ballots, which will run until November 4, come after the employer body UUK voted last month to cut pensions with an estimated £14bn-18bn funding deficit in the scheme. While UCU says that the plan, which is based on a flawed valuation of the scheme, represents a pension cut of 35 percent for a typical member, the employers claim it is 7 to 15 percent.

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