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Strikes unlikely at Welsh universities as unions fall short of voting threshold

05 Nov 2021 3 minutes Read
Students supporting the UCU strike. Picture by Manus Hagdorn (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Strike action over pensions is unlikely at universities in Wales after unions failed to reach the 50% voting threshold needed to take action.

UCU branches needed a turnout of at least 50%, as well as a majority Yes vote, in order to be able to strike – a requirement introduced by the UK Government in 2016.

According to the union, a total of 37 out of the 68 branches beat the 50% turnout threshold for strike action over pensions.

But despite five Welsh universities having a majority vote for a strike, none reached the 50% turnout threshold.

Swansea and Cardiff came closest with 48.2% and 47.3% of UCU members taking part in the ballot.

‘Needless cuts’

In a message to members, UCU Secretary Jo Grady said that she believed that universities that achieved a turnout of between 40% and 50% should be balloted. This would include all those in Wales apart from Bangor University, where 25% voted.

Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, said: “These results are a clear mandate for strike action over pension cuts and should be heard loud and clear by university employers.

“Staff in universities they have given their all to support students during the pandemic, but management have responded by trying to slash their guaranteed pension by 35%.

“In a ballot window of just three weeks our members have made it abundantly clear that they will not accept these vindictive attacks on their retirement.

“It is now in the gift of employers to avoid strike action, which is the outcome staff want as well.

“All management need to do is withdraw their needless cuts and return to negotiations.

“If they fail to do so, any disruption will be entirely their responsibility.”

‘Viable’

UCU’s higher education executive will meet on 12 November to decide its next moves, including timing. Several branches have been pushing for strikes to take place before Christmas.

The National Union of Students has said it supports the strike action.

A UUK spokesman said fewer branches had reached the threshold than in previous ballots.

“These results suggest that support for industrial action is limited. In most places where the threshold was reached, it was the votes of those saying ‘no’ to action that carried the numbers over the 50% legal threshold,” they said.

“The employers’ proposals for reform are the only viable plans under current regulations that will keep the scheme affordable for members and universities and keep the defined benefit section of the scheme open. Discussions with UCU will continue, and the consultation is currently taking place with the scheme’s wider membership.”

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