A strike is planned to take place on the 31st October over the pay, pensions and workload of university lecturers, technicians and administrators. With members of three major unions, the University and College Union (UCU), Unison and Unite all having voted to take part, it is thought to be the first time that all three unions will be striking at the same time, in the hope that this will force employers into negotiations.
Despite university fees increasing to £9,000 a year, the unions claim that the 1% pay increase offered amounts to a 13% pay cut in real terms over the past five years. UCU head of higher education Michael MacNeil said “While strike action is always a last resort, the fact that staff are prepared to take this step demonstrates just how angry they are”. In addition to the row over pay, universities are also facing massive shortfalls in pension schemes, meaning that as in 2008 and 2011, pension contributions from university staff may need to increase.
However, under a landmark agreement with universities, university staff have to share any large increase in costs with their employers, leaving many wondering if the costs of funding the deficit in pension schemes will be passed on to the student body in the form of higher tuition fees. However, spokesperson for the Universities Superannuation Scheme said that "There is no suggestion that tuition fees will be increased to plug the USS funding shortfalls”. This statement is supported by the Higher Education Minister, who was quoted saying “"It would be wrong to expect students to bail out pension deficits to support pension schemes that are far more generous than students are likely to enjoy when they're older” But assurances of tuition fees not being raised are something that many students are distrustful of, following the tripling of tuition fees in 2012.
The strike is planned to last one day, and will affect universities across the country, including Loughborough University.