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Uni staff set to stage largest ever wave of strikes in higher education

UNIVERSITY staff across Britain are set to walk out 14 times in the next month in the largest wave of strikes ever seen in higher education.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are walking out in two disputes — one over pensions, and another over pay and working conditions — with actions set to begin tomorrow.

The four weeks of protest, which will span 74 institutions in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, are set to last until mid-March, with workers walking out twice this week.

Staff are then expected to be on strike for three days the following week, four days the next, before a full week of action between March 9 and 13.

The disputes centre on changes to Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pensions and universities’ failure to make improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.

UCU regional official Julie Kelley said: “This unprecedented level of action shows just how angry staff are at their universities’ refusal to negotiate properly with us.

“If universities want to avoid continued disruption then they need to get their representatives back to the negotiating table with serious options to resolve these disputes.”

The latest round of strikes comes after 60 universities saw staff walk out for eight days before Christmas. They will be joined this week by staff at another 14 institutions.

Of those taking part this month, 47 institutions are involved with both disputes, with 22 challenging only pay and conditions and a further five solely protesting against USS’s pension changes.

The body representing universities over pay and conditions has expressed its members’ disappointment at the strikes.

Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA) spokesperson said: “These proposals address the important issues around employment in universities, focusing on casual employment, workload, mental health, gender pay gaps and ethnicity pay.

“UCEA has consulted all of its members in presenting these positive proposals. UCU is urged to consult all of its members in presenting these positive proposals to them.”

Those representing the pension schemes said they “recognise the difficulties” with the changes for many workers, but said they faced a “challenging environment” with increasing costs.

A USS spokesperson added: “We will be revisiting these issues over the coming months under the 2020 valuation and are committed to working with employers to build a secure financial future for our members and their families.”

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