The strikes are about two on-going national disputes – one is around pay and conditions and the other is about changes to the USS pension scheme – both of which can only be settled at national level, which means that individual universities like ours have little or no local influence on the outcomes.
It is disappointing that the strikes are happening again because there has been positive progress since the last strikes in the discussions between universities nationally (as employers) and the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) to address important issues. This includes elements of the pay claim around employment (including casual employment, workload and mental health, and the gender pay gap), as well as on-going constructive discussions about the future of the USS pension scheme, involving unions, employers and USS. The positive tone of these discussions, which have been focused on building a common understanding of the future of the scheme, the 2020 valuation, and governance issues, does not seem to have been reflected in UCU’s latest call for action.
We are disappointed that UCU has taken this decision given that significant progress had been made with talks to try to bring the dispute to an end. In the case of pensions, discussions are already scheduled to continue until at least March.
Pensions are a complex issue. Find out more information about the background to, and to understand the industrial action.
Our position at Birmingham
In line with other universities, at Birmingham we want to provide a work environment where all people feel valued and are treated fairly and with respect. We have been working very hard on addressing those areas that are in our control for the last year, including casualisation, staff workload, and an action plan to close the gender pay gap. All staff have received the nationally agreed pay increase, which was paid from August 2019.
We are keen to accelerate progress, working with other universities, and national bodies like the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), to agree a range of positive proposals around these important issues.