What You Need To Know About The University Strikes In London

By Alex Corey Last edited 52 months ago

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Last Updated 27 February 2020

What You Need To Know About The University Strikes In London
A UCU strike in London last year. Image: Shutterstock

At the end of last week, staff at universities across the UK began industrial action in the form of striking — protesting what they claim is unfair treatment by their institutions. These members are part of The University College Union (UCU) — a British trade union in further and higher education.

Here's what you need to know about the strikes.

Why are the strikes happening?

University staff members are frustrated with what they say is mistreatment from their universities. One of the main reasons for the strike stems from a 15% gender pay gap. Union members will now also be required to pay 9.6% in pension contributions. This had previously been only been 8%.

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#ucustrikesback #buproud

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Which universities in London will be affected?

15 universities and colleges in London are affected by the strike. The majority are picketing for both pay and conditions, and pensions, while a few are just fighting for one or the other.

Those striking for both are: City University, University College London, Goldsmiths College, Courtauld Institute of Art, Queen Mary University of London, Birkbeck College: University of London, SOAS: University of London, and Open University.

Those striking for pay and conditions only are: the Royal College of Art, University of the Arts London (UAL), Roehampton University, University of East London, and University of Greenwich.

Those striking over pensions only are King's College London and Imperial College.

In addition, 59 other universities throughout the UK are taking part in the strike.

UCU members outside Durham November 2019 strike. Image: Shutterstock

How many university staff members will be taking part in the strikes?

According to UCU, 50,000 of its members are expected to take part in the strikes.

When did these strikes start, and when will they end?

These strikes started on 20 February and are expected to end on 13 March. The schedule is listed below.

  • Week 1: Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February
  • Week 2: Monday 24, Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 February
  • Week 3: Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 March
  • Week 4: Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 and Friday 13 March

Is this the first time UCU has taken industrial action?

This is the third time in the past three years that universities have gone on strike. One took place for eight days from November-December 2019 and the other from February-March in 2018.

Is the strike all workers are doing to protest universities?

No. The UCU has spurred many of its members to take other forms of industrial action, which includes working only to contract, and not covering for absent colleagues.

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Day 5 of the Strike. Here we go ✊ #ucu #ucustrike #ucustrikesback

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What is UCU hoping to accomplish?

Staff members are hoping to receive higher education pay, working conditions, and pensions.

What is UCU saying about the strike?

In a public online statement, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "If universities want to avoid further disruption they need to deal with rising pension costs, and address the problems over pay and conditions."

Will members still be paid during the strike?

According to the UCU, members earning £30,000 or more will be able to collect up to £50 per day from the third day until strike competition; those earning below £30,000 will be able to claim up to £75 per day from the second day until strike completion.

Goldsmiths in south east London us one of 15 universities and colleges in London affected by the strikes

How are students being impacted?

Students at these colleges are expected to miss tutorials and lectures. Depending on the week, students can expect to miss up to a full week of classes.

What is the student reaction to the strike?

The National Union of Students (NUS), an organisation dedicated to protecting student rights in the UK, has made it clear they stand behind the staff and encourage students of the affected universities to do the same.

Their Vice President of Higher Education, Claire Sosienski Smith, said in an online statement: "It is incredible to see that more members of staff are determined to take action against the pension changes, low pay and exploitative working conditions that affect staff and students across the whole of the UK."

Of course, many students, are concerned and angry about the impact on their work — particularly those who have important deadlines looming.

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#UCUstrikesback #fourfights #USS

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Anything else to know?

While the strikes are scheduled to end on 13 March, there is no guarantee that this will be the last protest of the UCU regarding the conditions. Grady said the organisation will ballot members to ensure a new directive and for additional action to cover the rest of the academic year if these disputes are not resolved.

For more details on the strike check out the UCU.