Why I’m taking part in the UCU Strike Action

In case you weren’t aware, from tomorrow (22nd February) the University and College Union (UCU) is taking industrial action over proposed drastic cuts to staff pensions funded by the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). You can find some background to the pensions dispute here (and in related articles). A clear explanation of why the employers’ justification for these cuts is little more than fraudulent is given here and here you can find an example of the effect of the proposed changes on a real person’s pension (ie a cut of almost 50%). I also blogged about this a few weeks ago. There’s no doubt whose side the Financial Times is on, either.

I am not a member of UCU – I left its forerunner organisation the Association of University Teachers (AUT) as a result of its behaviour when I was at the University of Nottingham – but I will be participating in the industrial action, which takes place over four weeks as follows:

  • Week one – Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)
  • Week two – Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)
  • Week three – Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)
  • Week four – Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)

This is a bit complicated for me because I only work half-time at Cardiff University (usually Mondays, Tuesdays and half of Wednesdays) and at Maynooth University the rest of the time. The USS only covers UK universities, and the dispute does not apply in the Republic of Ireland (though it does affect higher education institutions in Northern Ireland) so I won’t be on strike when I’m working for Maynooth University, which includes the first two strike days (tomorrow and Friday). I will be participating in industrial action next week, however, and have today sent an announcement to my students they hear from me that the strike has been called off there will be no lectures on 27th February, 6th March or 13th March.

All staff will be docked pay for days not worked owing to strike action, of course, but that will be far less than the amount to be lost in these pension cuts. In my case I will be docked the equivalent of three weeks’ pay as 2.5 days a week I work are all strike days in Weeks 2-4. Moreover, I shall be leaving the UK for Ireland this summer and the pension cuts will not affect my pension anyway – any changes will not be made until after I’ve left the USS scheme. Nevertheless, this is an important issue and I feel it is right to take a stand.

One final comment. Last week Cardiff University sent an email to staff including a link to a website that stated:

If staff refuse to cross a picket line and they are not a member of UCU they will be in breach of their contract of employment with the University.

In fact, any strike action (even by a union member) is a breach of contract. The law however prevents employers dismissing staff who participate in industrial action, provided that it is lawful (i.e. following a ballot, and with due notice given to the employer, etc). The government website makes it clear that non-union members have exactly the same protection as union members in this regard. The Cardiff website has now been changed, but I’m very unhappy that this extremely misleading communication was sent out in the first place.

I sincerely hope that there is a negotiated settlement to this issue. Nobody wants to go on strike, especially when it has the potential to damage students’ learning. But there comes a point where you have to draw a line in the sand, and we have reached that point. I hope I’m proved wrong, but I think this could be a very prolonged and very unpleasant dispute.


7 Responses to “Why I’m taking part in the UCU Strike Action”

  1. […] via UCU Strike Action — In the Dark […]

  2. Although its true you don’t have to be in the union to take strike action, people should be aware UCU has stated they will not provide any help to non-union members in the event action is taken against them.


    • telescoper Says:

      Yes, it’s true that if you don’t belong to the Union and consequently don’t contribute to then financially you can’t expect them to provide you with the legal support members receive.

  3. Dark Matter Says:

    faculty: “What brings you here this morning”
    PDRA: My friends who give me lift to my workplace today are on strike”
    faculty: “You could stay at home!”
    PDRA: “I don’t have secured job like many others”
    faculty: “Well you must be a member of the pension scheme”
    PDRA: I am not sure if I will be able to contribute until my retirement.
    faculty: If you are only looking for an internet connection you should go to City council library!

    Like the above-mentioned PDRA there are many research staff
    who has worked in the HE sector for many years. Was made
    redundant every three to four years when the faculty has finished
    using their service. They simply don’t have the luxury of worrying about their pensions because they are more worried about their nect contract.

    Another fine example of Left-liberalism in Modern day Britain.

    Many of these union members are only visible in the dept. on the
    day of strike.

  4. […] to explore Dublin a bit, something that my schedule has not so far allowed. Next week will be the fourth week of industrial action and the last of the current batch of strike days, this time a full week (having escalated from two, […]

  5. […] Last night I saw the news on Twitter that negotiators on behalf of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) and the employers’ organisation Universities UK (UUK) under the auspices of the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) agreed a proposal to end the strike over pensions that has been going on since the end of February. […]

  6. […] of the Data Innovation Research Institute in Cardiff for the first time in almost a fortnight. The four-week batch of strikes over pensions has come to an end so I have returned to work. No agreement has been reached so it […]

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