UCU announce week-long strike in November at Kent

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced on 5 November that sixty universities in the UK, including the University of Kent, will face strike action from Monday 25 November to Wednesday 4 December.

The announcement comes after it was revealed that UCU members had backed strike action over the University Superannuation Scheme (USS) and working conditions at British universities.

The University of Kent had voted in favour of industrial action regarding working conditions, passing the 50%+ turnout threshold to make the vote valid.

A majority of those present for the vote from the University of Kent had also backed industrial action over the USS, but they had not met the 50% turnout threshold needed.

The University of Kent will be affected by a strike action concerning universities’ failure to make improvements on pay, equality, casualisation, and workloads. It was revealed earlier in October that the pay of staff in higher education had dropped by 20.8% in real-terms since 2009.

Union members at the University of Kent may also take up "action short of a strike". This kind of action might involve things such as not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures lost to strike action and working strictly to contract.

The announcement of the upcoming strike this month means that over 19,000 students could be affected.

Jo Grady, UCU’s general secretary, has stated: "The first wave of strikes will hit universities later this month unless the employers start talking to us seriously about how they are going to deal with rising pension costs and declining pay and conditions.

"Universities can be in no doubt about the strength of feeling on these issues."

Support for the strikes has been expressed by political figures as well.

Angela Rayner MP, the shadow education secretary, declared last month that "falling pay, rising workloads and increasingly insecure employment" are putting careers in higher education at risk.

Rayner called on that occasion for urgent talks on both sides to find a "sensible solution which addresses these important issues".

The wave of industrial action beginning on 25 November comes almost two years after a 14 day-long strike movement in February and March 2018 at the University of Kent over the same pension scheme.

Changes made in USS, the largest pension scheme for higher educations, were claimed to possibly leave lecturers £10,000 a year worse off in retirement.

The University of Kent has been approached for comment.