More university strikes could take place ‘throughout 2022’ and stop graduations

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Students could be prevented from graduating by university staff walkouts continuing for the rest of the year, a union has warned.

On Tuesday, the University and College Union said it would open new strike ballots over pensions, pay and working conditions, “paving the way for action to continue throughout the remainder of 2022”.

In total, 149 universities will be balloted from Wednesday 16 March until 8 April.The ballots will be for both strike action and action short of a strike (ASOS), which could involve staff boycotting marking and assessment next term.

As the UCU originally balloted universities in October 2021, which means the mandate for strikes end at many institutions in May, the reballots will allow staff to take part in strikes for the rest of the year.

On Friday, the UCU announced that more than 50,000 staff members at 68 universities across the UK would take part in five more days of industrial action unless pension cuts were revoked and demands were met over pay and working conditions.

Staff at 65 universities in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) will be balloted over pension cuts, and staff at 143 universities will be balloted over pay and working conditions.

The UCU has said that USS pension cuts would mean the average staff member had 35% less money for their pension, while high inflation rates lead them to estimate that staff pay is down by over 25% in real terms since 2009.

The union has also called for an end to insecure and zero hours contracts being used for staff.

In February, staff walked out over pay, working conditions and pensions for 10 days, with UCU general secretary Jo Grady saying at the time that this was a “a damning indictment of the way our universities are managed that staff are being left with no option but to walk out again”.

She said: “Vice-chancellors are refusing to withdraw devastating cuts to pensions and continue to ignore reasonable staff demands for better pay and working conditions.”

“This intransigence has left those who work in our universities with no choice but to re-open ballots across the UK.

“Successful reballots could see this action extended throughout the rest of the calendar year and include a marking and assessment boycott, which could prevent universities being able to award degrees – bringing the sector to a standstill,” she added.

She said that both students and staff knew that universities could “well afford to meet the modest demands of staff” but that “vice chancellors continue to plead poverty whilst taking home eye-watering salaries”.

And she accused vice chancellors of “hoarding tens of billions of pounds in reserves”. 

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