Bea Gardner, UCU Southampton branch executive (personal capacity)
The University and College Union (UCU) has announced 14 days of further strike action for universities currently in dispute over pensions, pay and conditions.
The action will start on Thursday 20 February and escalate each week, finishing with a week-long walkout from Monday 9 to Friday 13 March. In total, 74 universities will be taking part, 14 more than in the eight days of action before Christmas.
Before Christmas, 60 institutions, including approximately 42,000 members, took eight consecutive days of strike action, and have been participating in action short of strike since then over pay (and pay inequality), working conditions (casualisation and excessive workloads) and pensions. They will now be joined by more universities and workers taking strike action.
So far, employers have refused to budge from their current below-inflation pay offer of 1.8%. Management claims it is unaffordable to increase pay, but university income, surpluses and reserves have all increased. A victory on pay is the most concrete way of ensuring university management concedes to improving staff conditions and our share of the income.
Like the 2018 strike, members must be willing to reject an inadequate offer. In 2018 the potential sell-out of the pension dispute was halted by members on the ground. One way of preparing members for this is by electing local strike committees to lead the next round of action.
This new round of strike action is a fantastic starting point for a fightback across both further and higher education destroyed by decades of marketisation and austerity.