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​UK universities strike starts on Wednesday

23 May 2016

A two-day walkout at UK universities will go ahead this week after talks last week failed to resolve a pay row between UCU and the universities' representatives, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA).

UCU members will walk out on Wednesday (25 May) and Thursday (26 May). They will also begin working to contract from Wednesday, which means they will refuse to work overtime, set additional work, or undertake any voluntary duties like covering timetabled classes for absent colleagues.

If no agreement is reached in the coming weeks, members have agreed to further strike action which could affect open days, graduation ceremonies and the clearing process. The union is also beginning preparations for a boycott of the setting and marking of students' work to begin in the autumn.

The dispute has arisen following a pay offer of just 1.1% from UCEA. UCU said universities could afford to pay more and the latest offer did little to address the real terms pay cut of 14.5% that its members have suffered since 2009. The squeeze on staff salaries comes despite pay and benefits for university leaders increasing by 5.1% in 2014/15.

The union has also called for universities to commit to closing the gender pay gap and reducing the proportion of staff on casual and zero-hour contracts. On average, female academics across the sector are paid £6,103 per year less than male counterparts while 49% of university teachers are on insecure contracts.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'A 1.1% pay offer is an insult to hardworking staff, especially in light of the 5% pay rise vice-chancellors have enjoyed while holding down staff pay. Members have made it clear that they won't tolerate a continued squeeze on their income, pay inequality and the increasing job insecurity blighting the sector.

'It's time to invest properly in the teachers, researchers and administrators who are the backbone of our universities. Industrial action which impacts on students is never taken lightly, but members feel that they have been left with no alternative. If the employers wish to see a swift end to this dispute, and avoid further disruption, they need to come back to the table with a much-improved offer.'

As well as the two-day walkout, protests are planned around the UK with rallies taking place in Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Cambridge, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield.

The London event takes place at Conway Hall from 2:30pm. Speakers include shadow chancellor John McDonnell, UCU head of bargaining Michael MacNeil and vice-president (welfare) of the National Union of Students, Shelly Asquith.

Two-thirds (65.4%) of members who voted backed strike action and three-quarters (77.3%) voted for action short of a strike.


Last updated: 23 May 2016