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University of Winchester to kick off nationwide wave of strikes in escalating pay row

6 June 2016

More UK universities due to announce strike dates to hit open days and graduation ceremonies this week as Winchester kicks things off with Friday's walkout

Staff at the University of Winchester will lead a wave of nationwide strikes when they walk out in a row over pay on Friday (10 June) to coincide with an open day for potential students and their parents.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the institution will be the first to take part in strike action aimed at disrupting open days and graduation ceremonies. More local branches are expected to announce their plans this week after union members voted to escalate their action last week.

Winchester UCU members will be on picket lines from 8:30am outside the Sparkford Road entrance to the main campus and the Romsey Road entrance to the West Downs Campus. They will be lobbying parents and prospective students as they arrive for the open day to explain more about the union's fight for fair pay.

The dispute has arisen following a pay offer of just 1.1% from the universities' employers, 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 vice-chancellors enjoying a 6.1% pay hike.

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.

Since 2010 the amount spent on staff by universities as a percentage of total income has dropped by 3%. However the total of cash in reserves has rocketed by 72% to over £21bn.

University of Winchester UCU branch chair, Mick Jardine, said: 'Parents would be shocked to learn that their children are likely to be taught by staff on zero-hours contracts. We will be lobbying them and their children as they arrive on Friday to explain the reality of life for university staff.'

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Universities need to recognise that staff will no longer accept their pay being held down while a few at the top enjoy the rewards of increased money for universities. Nobody wants to take industrial action, but clearly enough is enough.'

As well as walking out last month, UCU members have started working to contract, which means they will refuse to work overtime, set additional work, or undertake any voluntary duties like covering timetabled classes for absent colleagues.

The union has also called on external examiners to resign their positions on exam boards; a move which threatens to disrupt marking this summer when boards meet to discuss challenged marks. External examiners are a crucial part of quality assurance in universities, as each course requires an external examiner to ensure that an institution's assessment is fair and comparable with others.

Last updated: 21 June 2016