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UCU adds new March strike date amid continuing negotiations

New March 15th strike date announced in order to apply ‘maximum amount of pressure’ on university employers


Last week (28/2), the University and College Union (UCU) announced an additional strike day for when industrial action resumes, after the current “period of calm” in which strike action had been paused to facilitate negotiations.

The new day of action will take place on the 15th of March, extending a period of strikes which was already due to cover the 16th, 17th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd of that month. This new date, falling on the last day of Lent term here at Cambridge University, is likely to affect students. Speaking to The Tab Michael Abberton, President of the Cambridge UCU said: “We would like to bring the campaign to a swift end, but if not, with our reballot already breaking records on turnout, we will be ready to escalate our action into a marking and assessment boycott next term.”

Announcing the decision, UCU General Secretary Jo Grady expressed her desire to put “the maximum amount of pressure” on university employers.

Grady, discussing the ongoing negotiations, acknowledged that progress is being made “across a range of subjects” in the UCU’s talks with Acas, the government organisation handling many non-pay aspects of the dispute, such as workload and equality pay gaps. Speaking to The Tab recently, the Branch Secretary of the Cambridge UCU similarly noted progress in these talks which has “a potential to be really meaningful.” Abberton also drew attention to the mixed picture offered by the negotiations: “UCU negotiations are progressing however we need UCEA to come back to the table on pay and UUK to make a solid commitment to restore our pension benefits.”

The UCU’s decision to accelerate strike action seems to centre around pay negotiations, as Grady made clear in her address that the pay offer currently on the table “is not a pay offer that has been agreed with us as a union, or any of the other unions involved in the negotiations.”

Grady offered union members an overview of the negotiations as they stand, while stressing that they are far from complete: “We are coming out of this period now where we have put pressure on the employer, we have reduced the cost and financial impact on you of strike action, and we have made progress in several key areas on non-pay, and obviously you are aware of the massive progress we have made on pensions.

“What we now need to do is force the employer to sign off these commitments at Acas, continue to go further than they have gone before, to recognise the depth of feeling that is out there on pay, and improve their pay offer.”

The UCU’s communications about the new strike day emphasised their ongoing reballot, which would extend their strike mandate by another six months. “The big thing we have here as a lever is our strike action […] so vote yes in the reballot,” said Grady.

Michael Abberton, in his statement to The Tab, continued: “We will be on the pickets and the streets again with our sister unions, NEU, PCS, Prospect, ASLEF and the RMT on the TUC National Day of Action on Budget Day. We all have our separate disputes, but the trade union movement is coming together to protest over ten years of ideological austerity, incompetence and neglect in education, transport and public services.”