So why is this a national dispute and not a local one?

Aberystwyth University employs over 400 members of the University and College Union. They are represented locally by Aberystwyth UCU.

The university is a member of an organisation called UCEA – Universities and Colleges Employers Association. This represents the interests of UK university businesses.

UCEA meets with all university unions (there are five, including UCU) to negotiate on behalf of employers on national pay and working conditions issues.

UCU is ‘in dispute‘ with UCEA.  ‘In dispute’ means negotiations have broken down and the union has had to ask its members what action they are willing to take to secure improvements in the offer being made by employers.

Members voted in large numbers nationally in October 2022 to enter this dispute and take industrial action (withdrawing our labour is industrial action) to seek a shift in the position of the employers. There has been very little movement by the university managers to deal with these concerns.

This dispute is a national disputeall negotiations are conducted and agreed between representatives of the university businesses (UCEA) and the representatives of their staff (UCU), NOT between staff and managers of individual universities.

The strikes can only be called off by national agreements.

There are five aspects to the dispute: pay, pensions, inequality, workload and casualisation.

    1. UCU is officially in dispute with UCEA over a pay award of 3% unilaterally imposed by UCEA upon staff in August 2022. In other words negotiations around pay in the midst of rising costs of living broke down. This followed a decade of real terms cuts in pay for university staff. UCU is also currently in negotiations with UCEA over a pay award for next year.

Universities currently sit on reserves (rainy day funds) of over £44 billion.

2. UCU is also in dispute with UUK – Universities UK – over a flawed raid on staff pension funds that was (again) imposed upon them by the university businesses in March 2022.

and UCU is in formal dispute over long term erosion of job security and working conditions for people working at universities. It is asking UCEA for a national framework (approach) to address:

3. the systemic inequality in opportunity and pay based on ethnicity and gender,

4. the average working week of lecturers (currently over 50 hours per week) by addressing the stresses of workload,

5. and to move away from forms of ‘casualisation‘ (e.g. hourly contracts) as a means raising profits at the expense of job security.

All FIVE of these issues are at the heart of the dispute.

The Vice Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Elizabeth Treasure, is one of 18 Board members of UCEA that determine its position on pay awards and working conditions, and she is Vice President (Wales) of UUK, that decides on pension provision.

You can read more details about the disputes here