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UCU ballots - yes to strike action on pensions, pay, workloads and equality
Lucy Riglin, UCU Cardiff University rep (personal capacity)
University staff in the University and College Union (UCU) are currently voting on strike action - this time in two ballots. The ballots close on 30 October.
One vote will be about pensions, to which we currently contribute 8.8% of our salaries. Last year's pensions strike forced our employers to set up a panel to investigate the situation, but now it looks like they're going to ignore this and try to make staff pay more (9.6%) for our current pension. This shows that the bosses can't be trusted, and that sustained struggle is needed.
The second vote is about pay-related issues. Staff voted on this earlier this year. But although almost 70% voted for strike action in England, Scotland and Wales we missed the Tory government-imposed 50% turnout threshold, getting 41% in the ballot.
The vote covers a range of issues, including addressing gender and ethnicity pay gaps, reducing zero-hour and hourly paid positions and reducing excessive and unsafe workloads. Pay has fallen by 21% in real terms over the last decade.
It's important that these ballots draw in all UCU members, as some will be more affected by some issues than others.
For example, a lecturer near retirement might be particularly worried about their pension, whereas a newer lecturer who is only guaranteed a small number of hours' work a term might be more angry about zero-hour-like contracts.
Most staff members are stressed by their workload: it's estimated that on average staff in higher and further education work more than two days unpaid each week. Like with all employers, unpaid overtime is a way for universities to save money by not hiring the extra staff they need.
It's important that the union builds a fighting organisation to unite all of its members behind resisting these attacks to their pay and working conditions. It's also important that students support this struggle, as many did previously, as overworked staff will negatively impact on quality education.
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