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Possible disruption for CCCU students as strike dates announced

Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) students face the possibility of disruptions to their studies after the University and College Union (UCU) announced the dates for the biggest university strikes in history.

 They are set to take place on Thursday 24 November, Friday 25 November and Wednesday 30 November and will involve over 70,000 university staff across 150 universities in the UK.

Lecturers at CCCU, who are members of the UCU, had the opportunity to vote for industrial action last October after demands regarding pay, working conditions and pensions were not met.

The UCU is looking for a meaningful pay rise to help deal with the cost-of-living crisis, something the 3% rise offered earlier this year did not do, and for the 35% cut to future guaranteed retirement income, made earlier this year, to be revoked.

In previous years the UCU has run a disaggregated ballot meaning that a 50% turn out of voters per branch was required for that university to strike. However, this year the two ballots conducted were aggregated meaning that a 50% turn out nationally was the requirement. The results saw UCU members vote ‘yes’ to industrial action.

One ballot was directed at the pay and working conditions dispute and saw a turnout of 57.8% with 81.1% voting yes, while in the second ballot dedicated to pensions the turnout of 60.2% saw 84.9% vote for strike action.

National Union of Students (NUS) vice president higher education Chloe Field said that students stand in solidarity with the university staff who will strike later this month.

“Staff teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions, and we must fight together for a fairer, healthier education system for everyone who works and studies.”

Since the anti-trade union laws were passed in 2016, the UCU is the only union to secure a national mandate for action in the education sector.

Despite the ballot results, no improved offers have been made by vice chancellors even after a record year of income for universities. The most recent financial year, 2020/21, saw income at £41.1 billion, an improvement of £1.5 billion on the year prior. The same financial year also saw vice chancellors collectively earn an estimated £45 million, while a third of academic staff remain on a form of temporary contract.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “UCU members do not want to strike but are doing so to save the sector and win dignity at work. This dispute has the mass support of students because they know their learning conditions are our members’ working conditions.

“If university vice-chancellors don’t get serious, our message is simple – this bout of strike action will be just the beginning.”

Without new offers strikes have the potential to continue into the new year alongside a marking and assessment boycott that could impact over 2.5 million students.   

As a response to the UCU’s planned dates of strike action the Chief Executive of the University and colleges employers’ association (UCEA), Raj Jethwa said: “UCU needs to provide its members with a realistic and fair assessment of what is achievable before encouraging strike action directed at students once again.

“UCEA and its member HE (higher education) institutions always seek to work with UCU and other trade unions to support staff and students and to avoid any unfair disruptive action.”

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