UCU strike action called off for the next two weeks

We welcome the news that all strike action planned for the next two weeks by our union partners has been paused following constructive negotiations on both pay and pensions.

Days of strike action which were planned to take place this week, on Tuesday 21 February, Wednesday 22 February and Thursday 23 February, and next week on Monday 27 February, Tuesday 28 February, Wednesday 1 March and Thursday 2 March, are now no longer happening. 

Our union partners have taken the decision to pause strike action to allow space for further negotiations following a significant improvement in the financial position of the USS pension scheme in the latest quarterly monitoring figures, and constructive negotiations with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), the body which oversees national bargaining on pay and other issues. 

We welcome this progress and decision by all sides to enter a period of calm while further negotiations are ongoing, and we hope for a swift resolution to the current disputes.  

As it stands, the planned strike action will resume after the two-week pause, and the full list of remaining dates is below: 

  • Thursday 16 March, Friday 17 March 
  • Monday 20 March, Tuesday 21 March, Wednesday 22 March 

While strikes continue, we will continue to do everything we can to minimise how you are affected and make sure you are supported. We also guarantee that you will not be assessed on academic content that has not been taught due to industrial action so that your educational outcomes are not affected by these strikes.

We have been updating our information for students and Q&As on a rolling basis where you can find more detailed information on what strike action means for you, what impact it may have and what support you can access.  

Updates on key issues such as pay and pensions  

Further to the  Provost’s message to you last week which provided some information about the issues around pay and pensions and explained some of the complexities of the situation we are in, we would like to provide a further update on negotiations. 

Negotiations between UUK (Universities UK - which represent the 340+ higher education employers in USS) and University and College Union (UCU) have been constructive.  

On Friday 17 February, Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) Trustee, the principal pension scheme for UCL and hundreds of other universities in the UK, published their latest monitoring figures. These continue to show a significant improvement in the scheme’s financial position. This means that the forthcoming 2023 valuation, happening in March, is likely to reveal a high probability of being able to improve benefits for employees and reduce contributions. USS and UCU released a joint statement on Friday saying that they were now working towards a solution. 

Our position at UCL has always been that the original proposed increases from USS were unaffordable, unsustainable and unfair for all our members and we are on record as having repeatedly pushed for a new valuation of the scheme and for a full review of the scheme’s governance. We welcome this progress, and hope for positive news from the ongoing negotiations. 

There have also been constructive moves forward in negotiations on pay and other issues. As a reminder, pay levels are negotiated and decided nationally on behalf of around 140 universities by UCEA (our employer’s association). 

Over the last week, UCEA representatives have been meeting with representatives from the five HE trade unions in facilitated talks. All parties have agreed to proceed to further talks to determine the jointly agreed work necessary on priority issues, including a joint commitment over a revised/refreshed pay spine, and a commitment to negotiations on contract types, workload and pay gaps. 

UCEA has made a final pay offer of between 8% and 5% uplift to 2023/24 pay with a proportion of that to be paid some six months in advance of the usual pay uplift date, in recognition of the inflation pressures on staff right now. This will be weighted so that those on lower pay grades will receive a greater uplift. Following the next phase of discussions between UCEA and the joint unions, UCEA will advise employers on whether the pay uplift can be implemented.   

While we do not have direct control over the national pay round at UCL, we have been a voice within the bargaining process pushing for a higher pay offer in recognition of the increases in the cost of living. Where we can act independently of national bargaining we have done so, for example by increasing the London Allowance and extending the number of staff who receive it. We are also an official London Living Wage employer and all outsourced staff at UCL are employed under the same terms and key conditions as in-house staff. 

We know that workload, job security and equality are key concerns for staff at UCL and issues that you, our students, care a lot about too. These are areas that we are working hard to improve within the financial constraints in which we are operating. You can see more about the ways in which we are trying to address the issues of concern here. We will continue to keep you updated on the outcomes of the next phase of negotiations. 

We recognise that this has been a period of uncertainty for many of you and we are working hard to resolve this situation for everyone as soon as possible. We are hopeful of these positive indications in negotiations and welcome the pause in strike action for the rest of the month. 

We will continue to keep you updated and will continue to work to minimise any impact on your studies. 

  • University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT (0) 20 7679 2000