The Strikes: what’s going on

This article is here to hopefully answer your questions about the strikes that are happening up and down every UK university. Many new words/ jargon are being thrown around and I will endeavor to tackle the majority of them to ensure a deeper understanding of the situation at hand. 


For one, what is the UCU? 

The UCU is the University and College Union. It represents over 110,000 academics, lecturers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians and postgraduates. A union exists in almost all industries and is formed when workers join together to pursue policies and goals beneficial to all members. 

Workers have the right to be members of a trade union due to the European Convention of Human Rights and may do so to help balance the power that employers have over individual employees. 

Unions often help to protect employees from unjust dismissal (firing) through the union formation of collective bargaining agreements (CBA). A CBA is an agreement in writing/writings between an employer and a trade union setting the terms and conditions of employment. The formation of these agreements are official and ensure that the union member cannot be fired without ‘just cause’. On the other hand, non-union workers are considered ‘at-will’ and may be dismissed. 

What is Industrial action? 

Industrial action is essentially action taken by employees of a company as a protest, in this case in the form of a strike (where employees seek to reduce productivity to put pressure on their employers). 

What is a picket line? 

It is a boundary established by workers on strike, especially at the entrance to the place of work, which others are asked not to cross. The picket line can function more as a metaphor too, with staff not coming into work also included in those ‘not crossing the picket line’. 

For updates on where the picket lines will be:

Why are staff striking?

There is currently a dispute between the UCU and Universities UK (UUK). The UUK has proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation scheme (USS) that leaves most lecturers with £10,  000 less a year in their pension for retirement. 

The UUK says this is necessary because it has a deficit of more than £6bn which it must address. The scheme involves changing from a defined benefit scheme where staff are given a guaranteed income in retirement to something called a ‘defined contribution scheme’, where pensions are subject to changes in the stock market.  

Tensions are also strong because of a release from The Times Higher Education which shows that UK vice-chancellors had a pay rise of over £10, 000 across the UK on average (4%) whereas other staff had a pay increase of only 1.1%. 


How will these strikes affect St Andrews and you? 

There will be 14 days of striking by university staff. These staff may choose to inform you of their absence but are not obliged to. 

Days of action include: 

February: 22, 23, 26, 27, 28

March: 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13 

The university proctor has since informed students that they will not be compensated for any classes disrupted due to the universities terms and conditions.