The University and College Union has announced the dates for their industrial action with strikes set for November 24, 25 and 30. There will also be a rally in central London on Wednesday November 30.
The latest strikes come after UCU members overwhelmingly voted ‘yes’ to industrial action last month in two historic national ballots over pay and working conditions.
Kingston University UCU branch secretary, Nick Freestone said: “For me what is different is that this time it is a national aggregated strike so that ALL university UCU branches are striking simultaneously, compared to previously when only a proportion of the branches nationally were able to take strike action.”
Ballots that took place in 2021 were locally disaggregated. Freestone said: “Although we were one of the branches able to undertake strike action, having the full membership with us this time is a much better position to be in.”
The demonstration on November 30 will convene at 1pm at Kings Cross. Freestone said: “As for the 30th it is certainly our intention to join the national rally in central London in some capacity or other.”
Some students are unsure whether their classes will be affected by the strikes and which lecturers are taking part.
Anna McKee, a master’s student at Kingston said: “During my previous undergrad, back in Northern Ireland, we had lots of strikes, and while I understand that it is important, the strikes did severely interfere with our learning and studying within the university.”
Although sympathetic to the causes, students fear disruption to their learning. McKee said: “I do understand the reason behind the strikes and their purpose, but I do think that if they go on for months and months that it can be very unfair on the students.”
This round of union strikes includes the full membership of 70,000 staff members around the country all of whom are urged to take part.
In the pay and working conditions dispute, the union’s demands include a meaningful pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis and action to end the use of insecure contracts.
It’s estimated a third of academic staff are on some form of temporary contract.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “This is not a dispute about affordability – it is about choices. Vice-chancellors are choosing to pay themselves hundreds of thousands of pounds whilst forcing our members onto low paid and insecure contracts
“UCU members do not want to strike but are doing so to save the sector and win dignity at work.”
The Universities and Colleges Employers Association says it has brought forward the 2023-24 pay negotiations in response to cost-of-living concerns.
It’s chief executive Raj Jethwa said: “Any threats of industrial action will do nothing to support students, staff or the many higher education institutions working hard to avoid redundancies or maintain staffing levels,
having delivered the August pay uplift.
“UCU needs to provide its members with a realistic and fair assessment of what is achievable before encouraging strike action directed at students once again.”