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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Staff begin five day strike at University of Bradford

The staff are disputing cuts to their pension of deteriorating pay and working conditions.

Staff at Bradford University have begun a five-day walkout today over cuts to pensions and deteriorating pay and conditions, the University and College Union (UCU) has said.

Two separate disputes have resulted in staff striking, the first over a 35% cut to guaranteed pension income and the second over deteriorating pay and working conditions.

The UK-wide strike action involves staff at 67 universities.

The UCU is demanding that staff see a £2.5k increase to their pay and that cuts to their pension be revoked. Image: UCU.

It started last week when staff at 40 universities downed tools for five days. This is the third round of strike action this academic year.

 Staff recently took up to 10 days of strike action over three weeks, from Monday 14 February to Wednesday 2 March, and previously went on strike for three days in December 2021.

The (UCU) also warned of a staff exodus from UK universities after two-thirds of university staff said they are considering leaving the sector.

The finding comes from a new UCU report ‘UK Higher Education – a workforce in crisis’ based on a survey of almost 7,000 university staff at over 100 institutions.

The survey found:

  • Two thirds of respondents said they are likely or very likely to leave the university sector in the next five years over pension cuts, pay and working conditions
  • Almost nine in 10 (88%) respondents said they are not optimistic or not at all optimistic about the future of higher education in the UK
  • A majority (57%) of respondents said they are unhappy or very unhappy about spending the remainder of their career in higher education

Industrial ballots also opened at 149 universities this month, including at most of the 67 universities facing strike action. They will run until Friday 8 April.

Successful ballots would pave the way for action to continue to be called throughout the remainder of 2022, including action short of strikes, such as a marking and assessment boycott. This could stop hundreds of thousands of students from graduating.

Last month university employers were forced through USS pension cuts, which will see 35% slashed from a typical member’s guaranteed retirement income. In the pension dispute, UCU is demanding that employers revoke their cuts and re-enter negotiations.

New inflation figures mean UCU estimates staff pay is now down by more than a quarter in real terms since 2009.

Over 70k academics are employed on insecure contracts. The gender pay gap in UK universities sits at 16%, whilst the disability pay gap is 9% and the race pay gap is up to 17%.

In the pay and working conditions dispute the union is demanding an end to race, gender and disability pay injustice; a framework to eliminate zero-hours and other insecure contracts; and meaningful action to tackle unmanageable workloads; as well as a £2.5k pay rise for all university employees.

Students have been supporting striking staff and the National Union of Students joined the previous round of action with a student strike on Wednesday 2 March.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “University staff are striking over devastating pension cuts, falling pay and brutal working conditions.

“They have been pushed to breaking point again and again by vice-chancellors and are now saying that they are ready to leave the sector entirely. This is a damning indictment of the way staff have been treated.

“If vice-chancellors continue to ignore the longstanding concerns of staff, they will threaten the future of higher education in the UK. Universities generate income worth tens of billions and sit on huge reserves. They can afford to treat their staff better and would benefit their institutions by doing so.

“The toxic working culture that has been created by vice-chancellors cannot be allowed to continue, which is why university staff are on picket lines yet again.”

The University of Bradford has been approached for a comment. Check back regularly for updates.

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