University of Northampton bosses say union's 'unrealistic' strike will only cause yet more disruption for students

Staff voted for industrial action in long-running row over pay, pensions and conditions

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 10:46 am
Staff at University of Northampton could take industrial action before Christmas

University of Northampton (UoN) bosses are pleading with union members not to carry out threats to strike before Christmas to avoid yet more disruption for students.

The University and College Union (UCU) higher education committee meets on Friday (November 12) to decide its next move after members at 58 universities voted in favour of industrial action in a long-running row over pensions, pay and conditions.

Nationwide, more than 70 percent backed strike action with 85 percent voting for action short of strike, which could include a marking boycott.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

At UoN, which has 231 UCU members, 62.1 percent of the 50.2 percent who voted said they were prepared to strike while 89.7 percent supported industrial action short of a strike.

But a spokesman for the university said: “From a workforce of over 2,000 staff, as few as 116 UCU members at the University of Northampton cast votes in the ballot and only 72 said they are prepared to strike.

"These low turnouts and patchy ballot results have been repeated across the higher education sector, with the union gaining a mandate to strike at just 58 of the 152 institutions it polled.

"As pay is negotiated at the national level — and not by individual universities such as Northampton — the UCU must now seriously reflect on if a small number of staff striking at a minority of universities will realistically force negotiators back to the table to answer demands for a further uplift on top of the above inflation base-pay increases of between 3.6 percent and 1.5 percent that has been offered.

“In truth, the negative impact of a strike will be felt most acutely by students who have already had their education disrupted by the pandemic.

"These students will be the victims of an unrealistic attempt to force all higher education employers to change an outcome that is — for most — already at the very limit of what is affordable.”

UCU, which represents academics and support staff, is demanding a £2,500 pay increase for all staff to make up for what it claims has been a 20 percent pay cut in real terms since 2009. It also wants employers to cancel cuts of 35 percent to guaranteed pensions.

A report also published last week showed a widespread workload and mental health crisis in universities, with almost a third of staff feeling emotionally drained from work every day.

General secretary Jo Grady said: "This result is a clear vote of no confidence in the so-called leaders of our universities, with staff telling them in no uncertain terms that they have had enough of pay and working conditions being run into the ground.

"We have a big mandate to take strike action, at a time of our choosing.

"We truly hope that disruption can be avoided. But this is entirely in the gift of employers who simply need to end their attacks on pensions, pay and working conditions and finally demonstrate they value their staff."