Around 125,000 UCU union members in universities across Britain have started voting in ballots for strikes. One ballot, for action over pay, workloads and unequal contracts, involves union members at 147 institutions.
And at 69 of them, workers are also voting for strikes to defend their USS pension scheme.
Union members took to Twitter to share pictures of them voting Yes to strikes in the ballots. Voting ends on 30 October and activists are fighting to win the biggest Yes vote and turnout in the ballots.
Workers are fed up of real terms pay cuts, the gender pay gap and insecure contracts. One UCU member told Socialist Worker, “If you are on a fixed term contract, you don’t know if you will have a job from one year to the next.
“And at the same time vice chancellors give themselves pay rises. People have had enough.”
Workers have suffered real terms pay cuts of 21 percent in the last decade. And USS members will be over £200,000 worse off because of attacks on the scheme. Solid strikes last year blocked bosses from shifting the scheme from a defined benefit to a defined contribution one. But they are still insisting that workers pay higher contributions.
And the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) set up after last year’s strikes to look at the future of USS hasn’t fended off the attacks.
UCU member Erin said, “USS have ignored the majority of the JEP’s recommendations.
“As the JEP found, there is no reason for workers to pay higher contributions. If we accept higher contributions, we are accepting the slow attrition of our pension scheme.”
Tory laws mean that turnouts would need to be 50 percent or higher in order to have legal strikes. But UCU members have beat the threshold in the past—and can do it again.
Workers know they are fighting not only for their own pay and pensions, but also to shape what universities look like in the future.
As Erin said, “I am voting to strike because I love the profession. I want it to have a future. I want my students to see that they can demand more, too.”