Why are you on strike?



Throughout February and March 2023, members of the University and College Union (UCU) will go on strike. This means we will refuse to work on those days, and we will lose our pay for those days as a result.


  • Pay: over the last decade, UK universities’ total income has risen over 38%, whereas university staff have had a real-terms pay cut of 25%. Even before the current cost of living crisis, we were having to take on side gigs and second jobs just to make ends meet.

  • Inequality: the gender pay gap at Essex is 18.6% – worse than the average at UK universities. Essex doesn’t collect statistics on its ethnicity pay gap or the disability pay gap, but the national statistics paint a bleak picture. (Black uni staff earn 17% less than white staff; disabled staff earn 9% less than able-bodied staff.) Is this the progressive university you were promised?

  • Workload: at Essex, 45% of staff survey respondents said they have more work than they can actually do each day and are rarely or never able to take breaks. Uni staff work a dozen hours unpaid per week, our mental health is suffering, and students are getting short-changed for it.

  • Casualisation: universities are increasingly choosing to employ people year after year on insecure, short-term contracts instead of creating proper, stable jobs. This leaves staff vulnerable: during the pandemic, Essex simply scrapped hundreds of insecure jobs. Every one of these represents a family thrown into financial hardship during a global crisis. But these were also your lecturers, administrators and support staff, or your colleagues. This degrades staff working conditions and student experience even further.

  • Pensions: to add insult to injury, our employers have just voted to slash our pensions. Not only are we working way too much and earning a pittance, but as thanks for this, we’ll be living in poverty in old age.

We believe that students and staff deserve better!


Yes. We had hoped that university senior management teams would realise how indispensable we were, but instead they doubled down and continued to steamroll our working conditions. They’re hoping to tire us out. But it’s our livelihoods, our mental health, and your education on the line: we intend to show them that we’re not giving up.

We know that things can be better than this. Many of us have witnessed the slow decline of UK higher education over the years and decades. Another future is possible!


Last time, not all UK universities voted for strike action. Employers said they couldn’t do anything locally, and were only willing to bargain nationally. So this time, we’re all out together – all 150 UK universities represented by UCU.


In many ways, yes. We don’t take this action lightly: we want nothing more than to come and support our students (we’re not in this job for the money or the working conditions, after all!). But strike action is only effective if it is disruptive. When an employer is refusing to listen to employees’ concerns, strike action is often the only way to get them to listen. University bosses know they need to keep students happy even if staff are not, so striking forces them to pay attention to what staff are saying. This is why, if you’re a student, you can play a crucial role in helping us to end this dispute as early as possible.

The best way to end this dispute is for students and staff to fight together against the abusive practices of management. The National Union of Students (NUS) and Essex Students’ Union know this, and have repeatedly backed our strike action. We’re also very lucky to have a fantastic (and growing) group of supportive students who come and chat to us on the pickets, come to our teach-outs, run parallel events in support of the strikes, etc.


This is a national fight. But Essex senior management would like you to believe there’s nothing they can do locally, and that’s just not true. Among many other things, we’ve asked for:

  • Less work: a huge contributor to the culture of unpaid overwork at Essex is not teaching or research, but meaningless meetings and bureaucratic box-ticking. When we raise this issue, we’re patronised with time management advice and “wellbeing webinars”.

  • More staff: we lost a lot of incredibly valuable staff over the pandemic who were never replaced. We need more excellent, highly experienced teaching, research, administrative and support staff (not more senior managers on six-figure salaries).

  • A real solution to the shameful gender pay gap: not just lip service and bonuses for those already at the top, but honest, meaningful change for the most vulnerable.

  • A public announcement of Essex’s support for our national proposals: they claim their hands are tied, but it would go a long way if they were willing to stand up for the rights of their staff and students in front of their rich and powerful mates, not just remain silent.


We don’t want to strike. We hate causing disruption for you and no one wants to lose pay. It’s a decision we haven’t taken lightly.

But we feel we have been given no choice. These issues have been going on for years and despite our attempts at negotiation our employers are refusing to listen to our concerns.

The only way we can get them to listen is by causing significant disruptions. We hope they will realise they need to act on the issues so we can end the disruption as soon as possible.

We know this will impact you, but we also know that despite the enormous fees you pay you are already impacted by the failure of university bosses over many years to address these issues.

Because staff are overworked, underpaid, and stuck on insecure contracts you are already getting a far worse deal than students in previous years, and unless we force a change things will get even worse for the students who come after you.

We can’t go on always being asked to do more with less and seeing staff and students losing out as a result. We believe you deserve better, and so do we. With your support we can get employers to listen and take action to improve Higher Education for all of us.


 Both the National Union of Students (NUS) and Essex University Students Union have spoken multiple times in support of staff taking strike action and our reasons for doing so. You can find the NUS Statement here and the Essex University Students Union Statement here


Great question! See here if you’re a student, or see here if you’re staff but can’t join us this time.