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Northumbria University

Northumbria University. Photo: dun_deagh / Wikimedia Commons / cropped from original / CC BY-SA 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

Members of UCU at Northumbria University have voted to strike over health and safety amid a growing number of branches escalating disputes and balloting

In a sign of the discontent bubbling away in universities across the UK, University and College Union (UCU) members at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne have become the first UCU branch to vote to strike over health and safety around Covid-19.

66.5% of members voted yes to taking strike action on a 67.3% turnout, with 89.9% of members voting yes to taking action short of a strike (ASOS). Already the University management have said they will move to only limited teaching on campus as a response to the ballot result.

On the other side of the city centre at Newcastle University a dispute is still brewing with an e-ballot about to take place of UCU members on a failure to agree over health and safety issues related to Covid. A number of other UCU branches around the UK are in a similar position.

The UCU branch at Manchester Metropolitan University is holding a consultative ballot for strike action over workloads and the imposition of face-to-face teaching. University of East London UCU is currently balloting for strike action in response to compulsory redundancies and the targeting of UCU activists in the planned job cuts.

Similarly, Goldsmiths UCU are also balloting for strike action, action short of strike and a marking boycott against redundancies and unmanageable workloads.

At the same time students at Manchester University have scored a significant victory following a hard fought campaign and occupation. The victory has already inspired other universities to take up rent strikes from Cambridge to Goldsmiths.

The Manchester occupiers ensured that among their demands were opposition to staff redundancies and organised joint protests with the UCU branch at the university. Linking up with the students taking action over their own shoddy treatment points the way forward for both the UCU and the student organisations.

Management will attempt to play students off against their lecturers, but unity built on the ground can counter that as it did in the last two waves of strikes.

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