The second call for the University and College Union (UCU) ballot has fallen short of the turnout threshold of 50 per cent, leading to no further industrial action to currently take place.
Between 15 January and 22 February, over 700,000 members from 143 different colleges and universities had the opportunity to vote on future plans for industrial action.
The ballot needed over 50 per cent turnout and a majority in favour for industrial action to occur. If the ballot were to have been successful then more strikes would have been put into action, similar to the strikes that were planned during second semester of the 2017/18 academic year.
This ballot was the second call for strike actions to occur by the UCU, differing from the original ballot in that the votes had been aggregated across the nation, leading to results being counted as a combination of all universities and colleges instead of by individual institutions.
In England, Scotland and Wales there was a 41 per cent turnout in favour of the strike. In Northern Ireland, where the 50 per cent turnout threshold is not enforced, there was a 67.6 per cent turnout in favour of the strike.
The current issue has been ongoing since May 2018, when the UCU and the Universities and College Employers Association (UCEA) began negotiating pay. The UCU and UCEA began discussing the issue across three different meetings between March and May. The UCU argued for their demands including, a 7.5 per cent pay increase, equal gender pay, and £10 per hour living.Although the UCEA rejected these demands, the UCU argued back stating that the value of their pay has dropped by 21 per cent since 2009. In further negotiations, the UCEA made a counter offer to provide a 2 per cent pay raise which was rejected in a ballot by 82 per cent of members in late June. After this was rejected, 65 per cent of members stated that they would take industrial action to increase their wages.
Another vote was taken again between 30 August and 22 October on whether or not to accept the offer of pay from the UCEA. There were two issues to vote on, strike action and undergoing marking boycott during the exam period. However, due to the few universities that reached the 50 per cent threshold, the Trade Union Act decided to not pursue the issue.
When the staff from the University of St Andrews were surveyed, 75.2 per cent stated that they would be willing to pursue strike action and 82.17 per cent stated that they would boycott marking as well.
After the first ballot did not pass, it was decided at a Higher Education special sector conference in November that a second ballot would take place.
The UCU stated that, “While this result shows continuing anger about casualisation, workload and pay inequality among participants it is clear the union needs to reflect on the result and upon the large amount of feedback from branches and members received during the ballot.”
Further negotiations took place on 25 February to consider the next course of action for the 2019-2020 pay round. The UCU stated that in this meeting they would do their best to “highlight the unfairness…as well as address the decline in the value of members’ pay while taking into account the views of members.”
Tom Jones, the Head of the UCU at St Andrews also commented stating: “UCU will continue to campaign – in St Andrews and across the UK – to close the gender pay gap, to end casualisation, and to reverse the decline in pay that has been seen over the last decade.