Several Welsh universities are facing chaos after many of their academic staff voted to strike.
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) have backed strike action in ballots over both pensions and pay and working conditions.
This will include academics, support staff, librarians and lab technicians.
In a vote yesterday, 52 universities passed the 50% threshold in the ballot which will affect 1.1 million students in the UK.
In Wales Cardiff University, Bangor University and University of Wales are affected.
UCU said the overwhelming mandate for strikes was a serious indictment on the state of higher education and that if universities failed to respond to the sector’s problems then strike action would be inevitable.
There were two separate ballots: one over pensions and one over working conditions and pay.
Overall, 79% of UCU members who voted backed strike action in the ballot over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). In the ballot on pay, casualisation, equality and workloads, 74% of members polled backed strike action.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “The results can only be interpreted as clear support for strike action over pensions, pay and working conditions. The ballots reflect just how unhappy and angry staff are at the state of higher education in the UK.
“It is incredibly frustrating that we had to ballot members again, but universities only have themselves to blame after failing to address falling real-terms pay and for refusing to deal with casualisation, workloads and the rising cost of USS pensions.
“Universities now have to come back to us prepared to work seriously to address these problems. If they choose to ignore this message from their staff then strike action looks inevitable.”
In 2018, a similar strike brought several universities campuses to a stop with some students eventually taking legal action against the institutions over the lost teaching hours.
The union’s higher education committee will meet today to consider the results and next steps in its campaigns to defend pensions, pay and working conditions.
No date it confirmed for action but an announcement is expected the evening of Friday, November 1.
Responding to the outcome of UCU’s ballot on USS pensions, a Universities UK spokesman said: “Employers remain open to further talks with UCU to discuss how the dispute can be resolved without industrial action, which would be damaging for staff and students.
“Recent negotiations between UCU and Universities UK concluded with no cuts to USS pension benefits, and employers paying the majority of the extra contributions required under pensions law.
“In a challenging economic environment, this outcome is the best that could be achieved. Crucially, it is acceptable to both the USS Trustee and The Pensions Regulator.”
In response a Cardiff University spokesman said: “We are disappointed with the outcome of the ballot over pensions and pay. National industrial action on university campuses will have a negative impact on some students which we wish to avoid.
“Whilst we fully respect the right of staff to take part in legal industrial action our priority is providing education for our students. The University will remain open and will do everything possible to minimise disruption to teaching and learning.
“This action comes at an extremely challenging time for universities. We are sympathetic to staff concerns on pay and pensions. We want a solution that rightly recognises the efforts of our hardworking and dedicated staff, and that considers the difficult financial environment and the challenges all universities face.
“Universities UK has worked hard to secure the defined benefit pension scheme that unions have asked for, avoid much higher mandatory increases and allow time for an independent panel to recommend longer-term reforms to the scheme. This has meant asking staff and universities to pay more in pension contributions, but limited to a further 0.8% for staff while the University will contribute a further 1.6%.
“University staff have already received a 1.8% pay uplift, backdated to August 2019. This is on top of an annual increment for some staff. We believe this is fair given the tough financial environment and increasing challenges we face.
“Universities UK is the body representing all universities in USS negotiations. The University cannot solve the pensions dispute on its own. That’s why we welcome the fact that UUK have said that they remain open to further talks with UCU to discuss how the dispute can be resolved without industrial action, which would be damaging for staff and students.”