Latest UCU strike dates announced

Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) members at 74 universities will strike for 14 days across February and March, the University and College Union (UCU) has confirmed.

The strike action is to begin on Thursday 20 February, with the number of strike days escalating each week and culminating in a full week-long walkout, from Monday 9 to Friday 13 March.

Union members are also undertaking “action short of a strike”, which includes working strictly to contract and not covering for absent colleagues.

The UCU has also confirmed that it will be seeking fresh mandates if a resolution isn't reached, to allow those universities originally balloted in November to continue strike action after April.

UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said: “We have been clear from the outset that we would take serious and sustained industrial action if that was what was needed.

"As well as the strikes starting later this month, we are going to ballot members to ensure that we have a fresh mandate for further action to cover the rest of the academic year if these disputes are not resolved.”

UCU confirmed that a further 14 universities had backed strike action following the latest round of re-ballots, with a total of 47 universities eligible to take strike action over both disputes, and a further five eligible for strike action in relation to the USS pensions dispute only.

Talks between USS, UCU and Universities UK (UUK) were held throughout January, focusing on the recommendations from the Joint Expert Panel’s second report and issues around the 2020 valuation of the scheme.

UUK have confirmed that the current tripartite talks are "set to continue at least until March".

Sixty universities held strike action for eight days during November and December 2019, affecting around one million students, with the latest action expected to affect an additional 200,000 students.

Grady added: “We have seen more members back strikes since the winter walkouts and this next wave of action will affect even more universities and students.

"If universities want to avoid further disruption they need to deal with rising pension costs, and address the problems over pay and conditions.

Commenting on UCU announcement, a spokesperson for Universities UK, representing USS employers, said: “We regret that UCU are planning further strike action at a time when positive talks on the future of the scheme are making significant progress and are ongoing.

"Despite this, UCU continue to request that employers pay still higher contributions at unaffordable levels.

“By law, pension costs had to rise to maintain current benefits. Employers have agreed to cover 65 per cent of these increased costs, taking their contribution to 21.1 per cent of salaries from October 2019 - together committing £250m more a year. Members have been asked to make a fair contribution too."

They added: "The best way forward is to work collectively to secure a pension scheme that is highly valued and affordable for all.

“Universities will put in place a series of measures to minimise the impact of industrial action on students, other staff and the wider community.”

A USS spokesperson added: “We recognise the difficulties in levying higher contributions but USS, along with all similar pension schemes, faces a challenging environment in which the costs of funding high-quality defined benefits have increased.

“We will be revisiting these issues over the coming months under the 2020 valuation and are committed to working with Higher Education employers to build a secure financial future for our members and their families.”

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