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Home>Industrial action>Students>YUSU industrial action roundtable 15 November 2021

YUSU industrial action roundtable 15 November 2021

A roundtable Q and A was hosted by YUSU, with Charlie Jeffery (Vice-Chancellor) and York UCU, who submitted 500-word statements about the current industrial action in advance.

Statement from University of York

Dear students,

Industrial action - and pensions, pay and working conditions - are issues that divide opinion, with very different, passionately held views about root causes and potential solutions.

That applies to students too; some of you may support your lecturers taking industrial action, others will be worried about the potential impacts on teaching.

Despite these differences, there is enough common ground for us to build on and keep making progress. Both sides in the pensions dispute (Universities UK and the Universities and Colleges Union, or UCU) agree the way the national pension scheme is run needs reforming. But industrial action will not bring this about. My view - which I have shared with staff and our local UCU branch - is that the national UCU has not done enough to try to resolve the pensions dispute.

Unlike Universities UK, the national UCU did not submit their own plans into formal negotiations on how to get the scheme out of its deficit. Neither did they support Universities UK in pressing the pension scheme to avert hikes in contribution rates. Our staff faced huge increases to address the scheme’s deficit, which they told us were unaffordable and incredibly worrying. Universities UK’s proposals avoid this. They do mean difficult reductions in benefits, but this needs to be balanced against the much higher contributions and big reductions in take-home pay that staff could have faced from now until retirement.

When we look at pay and conditions, we have shown how well we can build on common ground and work together at York to make a real difference.

Staff at York are brilliant, committed and talented. They deserve excellent pay and conditions. While there is a national framework for setting pay, here in York we are proud of the significant strides we have been able to make ourselves, working together with our local UCU branch.

Even at the height of the pandemic, we lived by these values. We became a real Living Wage Employer, voluntarily paying higher wages to reflect the real cost of living, rather than the government national minimum. And we went above and beyond other universities, honouring payments to casual staff who lost work because of Covid-19, shifting more staff from temporary to permanent contracts, and improving arrangements and strengthening contracts for our Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs). We know this was particularly welcomed by our postgraduate students.

This is why I am very sorry that you all now face industrial action.

My overriding concern is now to make sure you have the right support in place to minimise any disruption. We are determined to support your education and wellbeing, especially given all you have experienced during the pandemic.

To find out about what we are doing, take a look at Departments will review teaching and will make arrangements to mitigate any impact wherever possible. I continue to work with our local UCU branch and our student unions to do all that we can to best support you.

Vice-Chancellor and President


Statement from York UCU

When workers withdraw their labour they cause problems not just for their employers but also for those who benefit from their work. UCU’s strike action will indeed be disruptive for students who deserve an explanation of why we are putting them in this situation. Our strike is happening because our employers have refused to respond constructively to our claims for decent pay and pensions which we have pursued through negotiation and campaigning.

They have stuck to their policy of cutting our pay, which has fallen by around 17% in real terms since 2010. They refuse to take action across the university sector to end gender pay injustice, insecure employment, and excessive workloads. Postgraduates who teach are particularly low paid and insecure, and many on hourly contracts. Work at York shows that staff and employers can work together on these issues, but in a sector whose workforce is UK wide and international staff need action at UK level.

Staff and employers pay into our pension scheme while staff are working as a form of saved/deferred pay which gives staff a secure income when they retire. The changes which our employers want to impose would mean that while paying more into the scheme, a typical member of the scheme aged 37 and on a £42k lecturer's salary will suffer a 35% loss to the guaranteed retirement benefits which they will build up over the rest of their career. Recently joined scheme members with lower pay will suffer worse cuts than this. It is also proposed to reduce the guaranteed part of our pension income and its protection from inflation. The employers justified this attack on staff incomes by using a misleading valuation of the pension scheme criticised by both unions and employers.

Our employers say that they need to attack our pay and pensions to solve financial problems. Although surveys of students have shown that students would choose to cut non staff costs rather than staff pay and pensions, employers choose to manage university finances at the expense of the staff who design and deliver teaching, scholarship, learning support, and research. That’s why we say that damage to our working conditions is damage to your learning and study conditions. Staff who are poorly paid, insecure in their jobs, mentally stressed, and overworked will struggle to do their best for students. Our members tell us that they don’t like the prospect of harming students but that they need to take action to defend student interests as well as their own.

Our employers have refused to move from their positions. That is their choice – a choice which they could change if they wanted to. UCU has been left with no option but to use industrial action to show their anger at such stubbornness, and their commitment to get better treatment for staff. The reality of our anger and commitment shows in the large majorities voting for industrial action at York and across the UK. We seek student respect and understanding for this difficult situation.

Contact us

If you have concerns about the impact of this action on your wellbeing, please contact the Student Support Hub:
+44 (0)1904 324140
Market Square

For any other enquiries:

Contact us

If you have concerns about the impact of this action on your wellbeing, please contact the Student Support Hub:
+44 (0)1904 324140
Market Square

For any other enquiries: