By Sophie Squire
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Build the university strikes — and keep up pressure on UCU union leaders

UCU union members are fighting over pensions, pay and equalities at 68 universities across Britain
Issue 2789
Around 20 UCU union members outside Soas in central London, they wave placards on the gender pay gap

Strikers picket Soas university in central London last December (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Workers at 68 universities plan to strike across ten days in February and March. 

The UCU union members will walk out in two linked disputes. The first is over cuts to the USS pension scheme. The second is over pay, workloads, casualisation and equalities, known as the “four fights”. 

Workers at 44 universities plan to strike only over USS on 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 February. Strikes over USS and the four fights at 68 universities are then scheduled for Monday 21 February and Tuesday 22 February. And walkouts over the four fights at 63 universities are set to take place on 28 February and 1 and 2 March. 

It’s a step forward that the union leadership has finally called more strikes after the last round, a three-day walkout in December.

Nicola, a UCU member at Kingston university in south London, told Socialist Worker that there is a solid mood to keep fighting.  “In my branch there was a real desire to hear strike dates and enthusiasm about striking again,” she said. 

“There’s a lot of anger.”

Roddy, a UCU union member at Imperial College in London, urged university workers, other trade unionists and campaigners to throw themselves into building the strikes. But he added that “activists are worried that, despite their efforts, the way the action has been organised will mean it won’t be as effective as it could have been”. 

Many workers are angry that the union leadership tried to separate the two disputes at a meeting of the UCU higher education committee (HEC). There were even fears that the four fights dispute would be effectively abandoned, despite enthusiasm to fight among rank-and-file members.

Roddy explained why those at the top of the union might have waited to strike until late February. “The union will be having major negotiations over the USS pension scheme in early February,” he said. “I think the union thought holding off striking until after these negotiations would engineer a better deal.”  

“Waiting months to strike after the last one has been very unhelpful,” said Nicola. “Thankfully the enthusiasm has still held.” 

It’s positive that one of the days will coincide with an NUS national student union strike on 2 March. Samira, a student at Liverpool university, told Socialist Worker that it is vital that students organise quickly to support their lecturers. “It is common sense that the lecturer’s fight is our fight when their working conditions are our learning conditions,” she said. 

“Students’ anger shouldn’t be directed at workers—it should be directed at greedy universities. We need to poster, leaflet and do stalls, and importantly we need to talk to fellow students about the strikes.” 

Samira added, “During the last strikes our student union organised a poll to ask students whether they supported the strikes. We need to keep up the pressure and make sure we get a good yes vote.” 

The UCU says “further industrial action is also on the cards” including “rolling regional and UK wide action in pay and working conditions”. 

The best response to the bosses’ attacks over pensions, pay and equalities is more united strikes at the 68 universities.

Rank-and-file members should build the strikes—and keep up pressure on the union leaders. And every trade unionists, socialist and campaigner should build solidarity for the strikes, which could become a focal point of resistance to a weak Tory government.

The UCU Solidarity Movement has organised a student and staff solidarity meeting from 12 pm – 3pm on Saturday 29 January. Register here –

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