No strike action for Newcastle: UCU ballot falls short of turnout threshold

We take a look at the news that Newcastle University UCU affiliated staff will not be taking strike action as a sufficient turnout was not met in ballots.

Maud Webster
6th November 2021
Credit: @DavidWhinham via Twitter

Newcastle UCU have narrowly missed the turnout threshold to proceed with proposed strike action later this year, by a narrow margin of .1% and .5% of turnouts for the two ballots .

Between 18 October and 4 November, university staff affiliated to the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) nationwide were balloted to see if they want to take Strike action over USS pensions, and working conditions and pay. Newcastle University was one of 62 institutions.

However, whilst the outcome for the Pensions vote was 80.1% YES and the pay and working conditions was 73.0% YES, the turnout was only 49.5% and 49.9% respectively. Ballots are required to have over a 50% turnout in order to move forward with proposed action. This means Newcastle University staff will not be taking strike action as a result of the two ballots at the end of this year, and until a re-ballot takes place.

Concerns have risen amongst many staff in Newcastle University over the past few years over a multitude of issues. These include casualised contracts resulting job insecurity, unacceptable race and gender pay gaps, threats to pensions and toxic working environments. Strikes have previously effected Newcastle students' study, notably at the start of 2020 and also in 2018, after changes to pensions were announced.

One Newcastle academic commented on the result on Twitter: "While I’m heartbroken that we missed out by literally 2 votes in meeting the threshold, I’m buoyed by the fact that our branch remained united on the two campaigns and see them as entwined. It’s also willing to fight to change the system. I’ll take that for now."

Northumbria University UCU affiliated staff, who were only balloted on working conditions and pay, also did not reach the required threshold of votes. Newcastle University UCU are scheduling a meeting on Monday to "regroup and debrief".

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AUTHOR: Maud Webster
she/they | third year architecture & urban planning student @ newcastle | co-head of culture for the 21/22 academic year

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