University staff in Wales are walking out again, this time for 14 days, in the prolonged row over pensions, pay and working conditions.

University College Union (UCU) staff at Cardiff University , Bangor University and the University of Trinity St David are joining colleagues at 74 universities across the UK going on strike.

The action will take place between February 20 and March 13.

The length of walkouts will escalate each week, culminating with a week-long walkout from Monday 9 to Friday 13 March, the UCU said.

Week one - Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February

Week two – Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 and Thursday 26 February

Week three – Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 March

Week four - Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 and Friday 13 of March

The UCU warned it would run fresh ballots to allow more strikes if the ongoing disputes are not resolved.

The action follows eight days of strikes last term and strikes in 2018 which brought university campuses across the UK to a standstill.

Striking staff are angry at the rising costs to members of the pension scheme, the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), and about what they say is universities’ “failure to make significant improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads”.

The UCU dispute began in 2018. Pictured are Bangor University staff on strike in March 2018

UCU members at 60 universities also walked out for eight days in November and December last year in action that affected around one million students. This next wave of strikes will affect another 14 universities and an additional 200,000 students, as more UCU branches crossed a 50% turnout threshold required by law for them to take industrial action.

The UCU also warned it would ballot members after this wave of strikes if the disputes could not be resolved, to ensure branches could take action until the end of the academic year.

Strike mandates are only legally valid for six months, so branches who walked out in November would need to secure a fresh mandate to be able to continue to take action after April.

As well as the strike days, union members are undertaking “action short of a strike”. This involves things like working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "We have seen more members back strikes since the winter walkouts and this next wave of action will affect even more universities and students.

“If universities want to avoid further disruption they need to deal with rising pension costs, and address the problems over pay and conditions."

Staff at 47 universities, including Cardiff, Bangor and the University of Wales Trinity St David, are striking over both disputes - pensions as well as pay and conditions.

Staff at a further  22 universities, although none in Wales, are striking over pay and conditions only.  Staff at five universities, although none in Wales, are striking over the USS pension only.

Cardiff UCU spokesperson Andy Williams said:"Our members are extremely reluctant to strike again for the third time in three years. But it's a sign of how broken our university system has become that we're willing to sacrifice yet more pay, and disrupt our students learning yet further, in order to improve higher education for all of us.

"These strikes are about getting UK-wide action to avoid the further theft of our pensions, to address damaging, unhealthy workloads and gig-economy style working conditions in universities, to get solid action to close the gender and race pay gaps, and to improve wages which have fallen 20% in real terms in a decade."

Cardiff University said in a statement:“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 cannot resolve these issues on its own. The University will remain open throughout the days of strike action and we will continue do everything possible to minimise disruption to teaching and learning.”

A picket at Cardiff University during the November 2019 strike

A Universities UK spokesperson, representing USS employers, said: “We regret that UCU are planning further strike action at a time when positive talks on the future of the scheme are making significant progress and are ongoing. Despite this, UCU continue to request that employers pay still higher contributions at unaffordable levels.

“By law, pension costs had to rise to maintain current benefits. Employers have agreed to cover 65% of these increased costs, taking their contribution to 21.1% of salaries from October 2019 - together committing £250m more a year. Members have been asked to make a fair contribution too.

“The best way forward is to work collectively to secure a pension scheme that is highly valued and affordable for all. The current tripartite talks between UCU, USS, and UUK, which are set to continue at least until March, are building a shared understanding on the future of the scheme, jointly developing governance reforms and considering alternative pathways for the 2020 valuation.

“Universities will put in place a series of measures to minimise the impact of industrial action on students, other staff and the wider community.”