UCU announces pause in strike action

The University and College Union (UCU) have announced their intention to pause strike action for the next two weeks following “significant progress across a range of issues.”

The dates which will now no longer be affected are Tuesday 21, Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 February next week and Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 February and Wednesday 1 and Thursday 2 March. However, all strike action scheduled for after this two-week period is expected to go ahead as previously planned. 

The UCU have described their negotiations with university and college employers as reaching a “period of calm” which they hope to continue by pausing all strike action for the next two weeks. Jo Grady, general secretary of the UCU, wrote an open letter to supporters to emphasise that this was “simply a pause”, adding employers “will fear us extending our mandate by another six months far more than they will the next two weeks of strike action.”

This timeline will be voted on in a re-ballot on Wednesday, where UCU members can vote to secure a further six months of strike action if it is needed. The open letter asked all its members to vote ‘Yes’ in the re-ballot and encourage colleagues to do the same, potentially placing further pressure on employers if the new ballot is passed. 

The general secretary to the UCU described the pause as a “win / win for the UCU and our members”, following stalls between the union and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) after a proposed pay rise of 4-5% was rejected. The statement also detailed UCEA’s intention to spend the two week break “consulting stakeholders on a range of non-pay disputes”, and stated that they were recommending an end to involuntary zero-hours contracts for their members. 

The UCU intends to spend the next series of talks with employers focusing on restoring pensions, and other work and pay related negotiations like “improving work life balance”, “tackling casualisation”, and “addressing equality pay gaps”.

However, the statement refused to address specifics, stating “we cannot spell out exact details here” but that negotiations “are on the basis that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” The statement closed by promising “we will do everything possible to update you on the progress of the negotiations in the coming days and weeks.”

The accompanying video message included by the union continues to take a firm stance, as Jo Grady promised “Nobody at UCU will be fooled” and “the threat to the employers remains.” 

However, some members of UCU reacted negatively to the news. Saira Weiner, described in her Twitter bio as “Branch Secretary of a UCU branch in the North West”, tweeted: “Absolutely disgraceful that @ucu @DrJoGrady has called the strikes off without any consultation of members or the HEC. Everyone on the picket lines deserves a say in their dispute. Undemocratic, and unconscionable #NOCapitulation”.

Image description: a previous UCU strike