Low turnout and low impact following feedback from UCU’s strike action

18 January 2022

Low turnout and low impact following feedback from UCU’s strike action

UCEA has now received feedback from 38 of the 58 HE institutions where UCU undertook strike action relating to one or both of the 2021 pay round or essential changes to USS. Detailed responses relating to the three days (1, 2, and 3 December) of strike action were obtained, with two-thirds (66%) reporting that less than a quarter of teaching was affected and more than a half (58%) reported a low impact on the delivery of other activities. Perhaps most interesting were the responses comparing the impact to the 2019 industrial action*, with more than two-thirds (68%) reporting a lower overall impact in 2021.  

The figures across the affected HE institutions varied in both the size of the institution and the UCU branch. These figures indicate that just one-third of UCU members took strike action on at least one day over the 3-day period; this represents only 9% of all staff in these institutions.

This feedback will be disappointing for UCU and their HEC now faces awkward discussions and has very difficult decisions to make regarding further strike action at these institutions. This follows the recent UCU re-ballots results during December where UCU targeted some HE institutions having initially failed to reach ‘turnout’ in the earlier ballots over pay and/or the USS changes. For pay, just over a quarter (9 of 38) of the branches reached the legal 50% turnout threshold required for industrial action over pay. 

Raj Jethwa, UCEA’s Chief Executive said:

“Despite these low figures our members regret any disruption to their students caused by UCU’s industrial action. It is disappointing that UCU is considering further action at these HE institutions and now a few more following the re-ballot results. We respect employees’ right to take lawful industrial action, but it is misleading to their members for UCU to ask them to lose more pay in pursuit of an unrealistic 7% pay demand***. The vast majority of the 325,000 staff covered by collective pay negotiations clearly recognise the financial realities for their institutions.

“We trust UCU’s HE Committee will consider this feedback alongside the re-ballot outcomes in their deliberations on any further strike action. Any industrial action will simply be an unrealistic attempt to force all 146 employers to re-open the concluded 2021-22 national pay round. The 2022-23 pay talks are imminent – it is time to work together and focus on these.”

* www.ucea.ac.uk/news-releases/27Feb2020/  
** www.ucea.ac.uk/news-releases/18jan22/     
***Based on £2,500 per person pay claim


Final figures for this period of action will not be available until all our extremely busy members collate information about the numbers of their employees who have taken strike action. UCEA continues to collate these data in due course, as it has with previous sector-level disputes.

For further information: Please contact Andy Fryer, Head of Communications and Membership (a.fryer@ucea.ac.uk) or Marc Whittaker, Communications and Events Manager (m.whittaker@ucea.ac.uk).