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Union to re-ballot universities as strike fall-out grows

Image: Martin McQuillan for Research Professional News

UCU has said that re-ballots will start in 13 universities next week

As strikes at 60 universities over pensions and pay enter their second day, the University and College Union has announced that it will ask members at more than a dozen other universities to vote again on joining the action.

Trade union legislation introduced in 2018 means that 50 per cent of union members must participate in a ballot for a strike to be legal.

A fresh wave of ballots will begin in 13 universities on 4 December and run until 28 January. Research Professional News understands that more union branches are also preparing to re-ballot in the new year.

The tranche of ballots scheduled for next week will take place in universities judged to have come close to meeting the legal threshold for strike action, and whose union branches are in a position to arrange an immediate vote.

Re-ballots will begin at Imperial College London, University of Kent, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds Trinity University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, Liverpool John Moores University, University of Worcester, University of Salford, University of Portsmouth, University of East Anglia, University of Arts London, University of the West of Scotland, and Falmouth University.

This leaves high-profile institutions, including King’s College London, Birkbeck College and University of London, off the list of universities to be re-balloted in this round. The original vote at King’s was 21 votes short of the legal threshold and the vote at Birkbeck was nine short.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “We have been clear from the outset that UCU members are prepared to take serious and sustained action to defend their pay and conditions, as well as their pensions. Thirteen branches have already come back to us and said they want to be balloted again so they can join the action should further strikes be required after Christmas.”

She called on university managers “to come back to negotiations with serious proposals to resolve these disputes.”

Elsewhere, union negotiators met on 26 November with representatives of the University and College Employers Association, which speaks on behalf of employers in pay discussions. The meeting concluded without new proposals being tabled to end the dispute.

A spokesperson from UCEA said the employer’s body has "undertaken to seek feedback from the 147 universities they represent in the [Joint Negotiating Committee] JNCHES negotiations and to come back to UCU next week with some fresh responses on the kind of work we believe we could take forward at sector-level on the issues" of gender and ethnicity pay gaps, casual employment arrangements and workload.

However, while UCEA were prepared to listen to UCU’s point of view on pay, the spokesman confirmed that "the 147 universities are giving no collective mandate to improve further on the above-inflation final pay offer that was made in April of this year."

The current strikes at 60 universities are due to last until 4 December.