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There could be more strikes at 147 universities

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The University and College Union, which represents staff in both universities and colleges, have begun to ballot members in 147 universities across the UK to strike over a pay dispute.

The ballot opened on Thursday, 30th August and will end on Friday, 19th October.

The ballot was announced after the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, representing university and college employers, offered a 2% pay rise to university staff after the final pay negotiations between both parties concluded in May.

According to the UCU, the pay rise is insufficient. The real take-home pay of lecturers, academics and other university staff has decreased by 21% since 2009 as a result of inflation.

For the strikes to go ahead at a university, 50% of the UCU members must vote in the ballot, and a simple majority must vote yes.

NUS Vice-President Higher Education, Amatey Doku, said:

"NUS will continue to monitor the situation and await the outcome of the ballot in October.

"Of course we will continue to stand in solidarity with UCU while promoting the interests of our members. It is imperative that both sides get round the table for meaningful negotiations and reach a conclusion that prevents any disruptive action.

"However, we will communicate our position once we have met with UCU if further strike action is announced."

The potential strikes are separate from the 14-day-long pension strikes that occurred in February and March 2018, which have been suspended.

While the exact demands of the strikes have yet to be articulated, a UCU poster calling for a yes vote in the ballot demands that universities 'reduce casualisation,' 'end the gender pay gap,' 'restore work-life balance' and 'increase salaries to catch-up against inflation.'

A pay claim made by five trade unions (the UCU, Unison, Unite, GMB and the Educational Institute of Scotland) in March sheds further light on the dispute.

The claim, made before the May negotiations, demands a pay rise of 7.5% or £1,500 (whichever is more) for all staff, a £10 minimum wage, a reduction in casualised employment and workloads, a commitment to close the gender pay gap by 2020 and the establishment of a negotiating sub-committee to deal with issues specific to Scotland.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said:

"Staff working in our colleges and universities have had enough of seeing their wages held down while some principals and vice-chancellors pocket double digit pay rises and max out expense accounts.

"The pay offers do nothing to address years of decline in the value of our members' pay and have left us with no option but to ballot for strike action."

Featured image courtesy of Grietje Sabra

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