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Aberdeen UCU does not meet 50% threshold needed for strike action

But 37 universities vote in favour for strike action


by Michael Bryce


Courtesy of Anttoni James Numminen


UCU members at Aberdeen have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action over two main disputes, however, neither ballot reached the required 50% participation threshold which means industrial action is unlikely to go ahead imminently.


70.2% of voting AUCU members supported industrial action over changes to the USS pension scheme, while 56.8% voted in favour of action over pay and conditions.


But the ballots only garnered participation from 46.2% and 47.1% of members respectively.


Due to what has been branded anti-union legislation by UCU general secretary Jo Grady, at least a 50% turnout is needed for industrial action to take place.


Meanwhile, 82.7% of members voted for action short of a strike over USS and 73.5% of members voted in favour on the pay and conditions ballot. Both of these were also close to reaching the 50% threshold.


The University and College Union (UCU), which represents academics and other university staff in the UK, voted on two different disputes.


Balloting for staff at the university ran from the 18th of October to the 4th of November.


The first dispute is in regards to the issues of job security, unfair workload, a lack of equality for women and minority staff, as well as pay.


In an email sent to staff on the 15th of October, UCU Aberdeen said that:


“We know that in recent years, our pay has been cut by about 20% in real terms relative to inflation. We know that over half of the academic staff in our universities are employed on fixed-term and variable or guaranteed minimum/zero-hours contracts.

“We know that there are severe pay gaps for women and other colleagues with protected characteristics, with the gender pay gap as high as 20% in several institutions. We know that staff spend hours every week effectively working for free.”


The second dispute is over cuts to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), a nationwide pension scheme for university staff.


Cuts to this pension scheme have been proposed by Universities UK as a way to manage a funding shortfall that is estimated to be between £14-18 billion.


According to the UCU, a USS member is estimated to lose anywhere between £240,000 to £730,000 in retirement.

The Gaudie asked UCU Aberdeen about what they hope to achieve with industrial action and what they wanted students to know about why they’re taking this action. As of writing, there has been no formal response from the union.


On 2 November, Student Council voted non-bindingly against the UCU strikes. As of publication, it is not known if AUSA will support the potential UCU strikes, however, AUSA has done so in the past.


Last year, over 70 branches went on strike, including AUCU, with some staff suggesting that a sense of apathy lead to the low turnout this time. Members have previously walked out in 2020, 2019, and 2018.


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