Exeter’s UCU-affiliated staff to take strike action at the end of November

By Matt Solomons |

The University and College Union (UCU) has confirmed that 60 universities across the UK – including the University of Exeter – will be hit by strike action from November 25 – December 4.

Penryn Campus | FA

The announcement comes after over 79% of UCU members voted in favour of strikes over pensions and pay and working conditions last week. With 60 institutions set to strike, over one-million students are expected to be affected for eight days during Weeks 10 and 11 of the first term.

Just over 50% of UCU-affiliated University of Exeter staff voted in the ballot with 83% supporting industrial action. The confirmation today marks the second time in three years that the university will partake in strike action after participating in UCU striking during the 2017/18 academic year.

Following the announcement, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘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.

‘Any general election candidate would be over the moon with a result along the lines of what we achieved last week. Universities can be in no doubt about the strength of feeling on these issues and we will be consulting branches whose desire to strike was frustrated by anti-union laws about reballoting.’

… plans are in place to ensure that any potential disruption to students and staff is minimised.

Universities UK, the representative organisation for universities in the UK, unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate with the UCU prior to this announcement. In a statement, the group said: ‘We are hopeful that the dispute can be resolved without industrial action; but plans are in place to ensure that any potential disruption to students and staff is minimised.

‘The resolution to the 2018 Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) valuation is both fair and reasonable, with the additional costs of maintaining the current level of benefits shared 65:35 by employers and scheme members.

‘We are committed to ensuring USS remains one of the very best pension schemes in the country, and hope that UCU will now join us to consider governance reforms and alternative options for future valuations, which deliver a shared set of principles, increased transparency and a sustainable scheme.’

UPDATE: 08/11/19

Since the publication of this report, both the University of Exeter and the Students’ Union have released statements.

The Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Steve Smith sent a university-wide email with the message: ‘I realise this news may be unsettling for many of you and I remain hopeful that the dispute can be resolved without industrial action.

‘However, I would like to reassure you that since the ballots were announced in June we’ve been regularly meeting with colleagues across the University, as well as the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union, to carefully manage the potential impact any planned industrial action may have on our University community, and to ensure any measures we put in place are the right ones for our students.’

Additionally, the SU have reached out to Penryn Campus students, asking for their views on the issue before deciding on their own stance. They said: ‘To ensure that we are best representing an accurate reflection of our members’ views, we are asking all University of Exeter Cornwall Campus students to complete a short survey which will inform our response.’