Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the University of York have voted for more strike action in a dispute over pensions.
In York, 68.5% of members voting supported strikes, with 83.8% supporting other industrial action short of a strike.
Just over half, 53.7%, of members took part in the vote, making York one of 35 universities to meet the required 50% turnout for strike action to take place.
The vote does not mean that strike action is guaranteed, and the UCU says universities “now need to urgently revoke the pension cuts and return to the negotiating table to avoid strike action”.
UCU’s higher education executive will meet on 12 November to decide their next decisions, including the timing of any industrial action.
Strike action could take place before Christmas this term.
Vice Chancellor Charlie Jeffrey said: “
“My overriding concern is about the deeply adverse impact that industrial action could have on the education and wellbeing of our students who have already experienced disruption to their education over the last 18 months.
“It is clear that everyone in our community – including those who have felt compelled to vote for industrial action – have had to take very difficult decisions on these issues.
“I am committed to continuing to work collaboratively with our local UCU branch and to build on all of the work we’ve done so far to continue to provide good employment conditions for all of our staff.”
Staff at the University of York were also balloted on strike action over pay and conditions, and the result of this vote is expected to be announced in the coming days.
Vice Chancellor Charlie Jeffrey wrote to students yesterday, and said: “I do not think industrial action is the answer to these disputes, especially when so many of you have faced such upheaval over the pandemic.
“UCU’s call for action will not change the USS pension deficit, and a lot of headway has already been made on the pensions issue which we should try to build on.”
Discussions on pensions take place on a national level, and the UCU said the result showed “staff anger over cuts to the USS pensions which would reduce the guaranteed retirement income of a typical member by 35%”.
Universities UK say that the annual pension cuts only amount to between 10% and 18% of benefits, and are necessary to avoid higher contributions from staff and employers.
The National Union of Students has said it supports the strike action, saying that “students will hold employers responsible” if an agreement is not reached.
However, YUSU has not yet set out a position on industrial action.
Universities UK said: “While it is disappointing to see some UCU members think industrial action over pensions is justified, the union has failed to secure a mandate for industrial action in 31 of the 68 institutions, meaning fewer branches have reached the threshold than in previous ballots.
“Union members voting ‘yes’ to strike action at eligible branches account for less than 7% of the scheme’s total active membership.
“The employers’ proposals for reform are the only viable plans under current regulations that will keep the scheme affordable for members and universities and keep the defined benefit section of the scheme open.”
UCU General Secretary Jo Grady said: “These results are a clear mandate for strike action over pension cuts and should be heard loud and clear by university employers.
“Staff in universities have given their all to support students during the pandemic, but management have responded by trying to slash their guaranteed pension by 35%.
“In a ballot window of just three weeks our members have made it abundantly clear that they will not accept these vindictive attacks on their retirement.
“It is now in the gift of employers to avoid strike action, which is the outcome staff want as well. All management need to do is withdraw their needless cuts and return to negotiations. If they fail to do so, any disruption will be entirely their responsibility.”