If you’re a student at the University of Manchester, you might find the info below useful.

What happened?

On 24 October 2022, the University and College Union, the trade union that represents 130,000 university workers in the UK, announced the results of a nationwide ballot of members on possible future industrial action. Members voted to support strike action by an overwhelming majority, based on a historically high voter turnout.

What is a strike?

A strike is a collective agreement to refuse to work, declared by an organised group of employees as a way to compel a powerful employer to negotiate, usually as a position of last resort after conventional attempts at negotiation have failed. Strikers lose all pay for the time they are on strike. Striking is lawful. Historically, strikes have played a major role in securing workers’ rights, safe working conditions and fair rates of pay in many kinds of employment around the world.

If UCU members go on strike, the most visible effect will be that teaching and research activities involving those staff that are scheduled for a declared strike day won’t happen. UCU’s membership also includes librarians, technicians, administrators and other university staff, so various other activities are also affected.

What is the dispute about?

The dispute brings together in one action our efforts to reach a better deal on several issues that have been a major problem in higher education for many years. These include casualisation, with frontline teaching staff in particular often living on precarious, fractional short-term contracts; rates of pay, which have fallen steadily in real terms, and are now worth around three-quarters of their 2009 value; systemic inequality, with a particular focus on the longstanding gender, ethnic and disability pay gaps; and workload and working conditions, with a focus on manageable hours and reducing levels of stress and ill health.

Technically a separate dispute – but likely to be co-ordinated alongside the other one – is an attempt to resolve long-running problems with the management of USS, the pension scheme used mainly by UCU members at older universities, including the University of Manchester.

There’s more information at the UCU Rising FAQ page (aimed at UCU members) and the UMSU strike page (aimed at students).

Can’t you protest in a way that doesn’t affect students?

Practically speaking, no. All UCU members recognise that many students have suffered greatly in recent years and continue to do so. Unfortunately, it’s clear from long experience that university employers do not acknowledge organised protest from their staff unless there is disruption – or the threat of disruption – to teaching or assessment.

The UCU view is that the quality of the student learning experience is already badly affected, nationwide, by the problems we’re trying to address, with stressed, underpaid and precarious staff often teaching to excessively large classes amid dysfunctional admin structures. Since we have not been able to achieve meaningful dialogue any other way, we now believe that effective industrial action is the best path to achieving lasting improvements to both the working conditions of staff and the learning conditions of students.

Thank you for reading!

We did it!

Results are out, and UCU made history by getting over the 50% participation threshold in two national disputes: pay and working conditions, and pensions; further information on the campaigns can be found here. Of the ~60% of members who voted on each ballot, over 80% voted YES for both strike action and action short of strike.

Strike action is always the last resort, and we very much hope it can be avoided. However, while planning is under way, the possibility of lost income for our members -including staff on part-time contracts and Graduate Teaching Assistants- is very much real. If you can, donations to the local hardship fund, which is a much needed source of support for our members throughout periods of lost income due to industrial action, would be really appreciated; the (UoM) Branch Hardship Fund, the account details are:

UCU University of Manchester Hardship Fund
Sort code: 60-83-01
Account: 20392565

Alternatively / additionally, you can find the details for the UCU Hardship Fund (at national level) here.

Thank you!

UMUCU members at branch meeting, encouraging others to #VoteYES