Around 2.5 million students will have their classes disrupted as 70,000 faculty and university staff stage their biggest-ever strike today, vowing not to reschedule canceled classes.
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will drop out over pay, conditions and pensions at 153 universities today, tomorrow and next Wednesday.
Classes are expected to be canceled and libraries may close, with strikers refusing to postpone missed work or catch up online as pickets go up across the country.
University leaders condemned the move, saying only one in ten pensioners actually voted for it.
It’s not clear how many classes will be affected because the UCU isn’t required to say how many members will be taking part in the strike.
They promised to use “substitute classes, specific tutorials and access to online resources” to help students and ease exams.
It comes after students endured months of online learning during the pandemic, as well as other faculty strikes in 2018, 2019, 2021 and February of this year.
As of today, more than 70,000 teachers and other staff at 150 universities are on strike
Around 2.5 million students are affected by the strikes. Pictured: University of Belfast staff began a 10-day strike on February 14, 2021
The second largest strike of all time took place in 2006 when 60,000 employees left the company.
The Left Federal Association of Students supports the strike despite the blow against its own members.
The University and College Union (UCU), which is behind the action, said if the demands are not met, there will be more strikes in the new year.
UCU Secretary General Jo Grady said: “University staff are staging the largest strike action in the history of higher education.
“They’re fed up with falling wages, pension cuts and gig economy working conditions – all while vice chancellors enjoy lottery-winning salaries and live it in their mansions of grace and favor.
“Employees are burned out, but they are fighting back and will bring the entire sector to a standstill.”
NUS Vice-President for Higher Education Chloe Field said: “Students express their solidarity with university staff strike.
The strikes come after UCU members voted overwhelmingly in favor of industrial action in two national ballots last month on wages and conditions and pensions. Pictured: Rallies in Glasgow on February 14, 2021
“The working conditions of staff are the learning conditions of students, and for more than a decade both have been under attack by a sector that prioritizes profit over education.”
On wages and working conditions, the union is calling for a “meaningful” wage increase to deal with the cost of living crisis and action to end the use of “unsafe” contracts.
The union said employers introduced a sub-inflation wage premium this year.
In the pensions dispute, the UCU is urging employers to reverse a “cutting package” made earlier this year that sees the average union member lose 35 per cent of their guaranteed future pension income.
Postal workers strike last
Postal workers have gathered to picket outside a Royal Mail delivery office.
A small group of members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) were at the crime scene in Camden, north London, from 6.30am on Thursday with banners and flags.
A few drivers entering the delivery office beeped and waved to show their support.
As part of the UCU’s industrial action, they have also urged all members to “work on contract”.
In addition, they will “not represent absent colleagues”; “refusing to reschedule classes missed due to industrial action”; and “remove materials for lessons that would have taken place on strike days from online learning platforms”.
A spokesman for Universities UK, which represents the Vice Chancellors, said the university’s pension scheme is “one of the most generous in the private sector”.
They added: “The employer contribution rate of 21.6 per cent of salary is about three times higher than the average employer contribution rate across the FTSE 250 companies.”
Professor Steve West, UUK President, said it was “disappointing” that the union had voted to go on strike.
“Of course it’s the students who suffer,” he added.
“We understand that strikes are the last thing students want after the disruption they have faced due to the pandemic and previous industrial action.
“This can be a worrying time for them, they may be concerned about possible disruption.
“But I would send this message; Universities are well prepared to mitigate the impact of industrial action on student learning and we are all working hard to implement a range of measures to ensure this.”
He added that libraries, computer labs, student services and IT support will be available throughout the industrial action.