The reasons behind the longest strike of UK academia

Sixty-one British Universities have been on strike for fourteen days in the period between 23 February to 16 March – the longest strike ever seen in the history of the British academia. Plans of the employer association Universities of the United Kingdom (UUK) to transform the pension fund University Superannuation Scheme (USS) from a system of defined benefits to a system of defined contributions have been the trigger for the strike. However, the strike is also the product of a long-term general discontent about the deterioration of University employees’ working conditions and the marketization and casualization of the UK University sector. The strike has seen an unprecedented mobilization and has also enjoyed unexpected solidarity from students, for whom the marketization of the University has meant the skyrocketing of University fees. UUK and the University and College Union (UCU) have reached an agreement in April and a second round of strikes has been called out. The agreement sets up an independent panel of experts to resolve long term differences between UUK and UCU regarding the valuation of USS and to propose a reform of USS that would not eliminate the defined benefit system. While the agreement is a step forward, UCU members have little trust in UUK and the possibility of a new strike in the next academic year remains open, depending on the outcome of the independent valuation. The strike offers useful lessons to academics in other European countries about how to resist the deterioration of academics’ working conditions and build a successful mobilization.

About the Author

Federico Forneris
Federico Forneris, PhD in Biochemistry and Structural Biology, is Principal Investigator of the Armenise-Harvard Laboratory of Structural Biology at the University of Pavia, Italy

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