Should the Students' Union support the UCU strikes of 2021? Vote Here

To the Academic Community at UCL,

We wrote to you last November to express our deepest gratitude for delivering world-class teaching and learning in the most challenging of circumstances. We are truly grateful for the support you gave, and continue to give, our members - all students at UCL. 

We understand that your Trade Union is currently in a dispute regarding the future of the USS Pension Scheme. We firmly believe that all staff should receive a fair and secure pension and decent working conditions. Everyone deserves the right to a prosperous retirement and this should be defended for everyone in our university community.

Once more we stand in solidarity with you. Our learning environment is your working environment. As students, we have seen first-hand the pressure of heightened workload over the course of the pandemic and we remain grateful for the sacrifices that you have made. 

We have joined you, and Unions across the UK, at the forefront in the fight for your rights and we have always supported the action you have taken. We’ve pushed hard for fair and equal pay for all UCL staff, for improved terms and conditions, and against casualisation - especially for PGTAs.

We continue to live in exceptional and challenging times as we begin to rebuild from the pandemic. Students’ education was severely disrupted by the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, and this was compounded by the industrial action we supported in 2018 and 2019. This is an education for which we have accrued tens of thousands of pounds of debt and that we will be repaying for decades to come.

Students have suffered loneliness, isolation, stress, financial hardship, and many other issues as well. Despite the heroic efforts of our academic community, students have not received the university experience they were promised.

This academic year is crucial in rebuilding our communities, improving students’ mental health, and delivering on our promise of an exceptional student experience. Students should not have to endure further disruption to their lives and education, in fact, we feel they are owed what they have lost over the past two years.  

Last week our Union Executive discussed the UCU ballot on industrial action. Our Executive is our democratic policy-making body composed of our Sabbatical Officers and Student Officers who were elected by students and represent and defend their interests to UCL every day. Following considerable discussion, the Executive took the difficult decision not to support the potential upcoming strike action.

We respect the right of staff to ballot on industrial action and in particular their long held right to withdraw their labour. We understand that for the ballot to be successful, 50% of the academic community must participate and a majority must vote yes. We respectfully ask that when deciding how to vote, or whether to vote at all, that you consider the impact on our members, students at UCL. 

Instead of turning to strike action that would hurt students who have undergone significant turmoil during the past few years, we urge UCU to consider other ways of settling this dispute through constructive negotiation or other tactics which do not mean our students will have their education compromised. Additionally, we call on employers such as UCL to cooperate and settle this dispute with trade unions.  

Our academics are the backbone of this institution. We are proud to support UCU in the fight for a fair and more equitable higher education sector. We have stood in solidarity with academic staff time and time again. But we cannot support the prospect of weeks of further disruption at this time, after everything that students have faced in the past four years. We hope you understand that this has been a very challenging decision for us, however, we must put our members first.

Students’ Union UCL