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Bath and Bristol universities join latest wave of strikes

15 June 2016

Members of UCU at the University of Bath and the University of Bristol will join the latest wave of nationwide strikes when they walk out in a row over pay and conditions on Friday.

Staff at the universities have timed their action to hit open days for potential students and their parents. Staff will lobby parents and students as they arrive to explain more about the union's campaign for fair pay and better conditions.

At Bath, UCU members will be on picket lines from 7.30am outside the main entrances to the campus. Over at Bristol staff will also be on picket lines from 8.30am outside the university at the junction of Woodland Road and Tyndall Avenue. They will also be holding a rally outside Senate House at 10:30am.  

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.

So far staff have already walked out at six other universities after Winchester started this new wave of targeted strikes last Friday. This week staff at Edinburgh, Kent, Sussex, Glasgow and the University of West of Scotland will also walk out after union members voted to escalate their action earlier this month.

UCU regional official, Nick Varney, said: 'UCU members at Bath and Bristol are joining targeted strike action this week because they have had enough of their pay being held down, while a few at the top continue to be paid handsomely.

'Members have been left with no alternative but to escalate their industrial action after universities refused to come back to the negotiating table with a fair offer. Too many staff are on contracts more associated with Sports Direct than higher education and universities need to engage with us to stamp out insecure contracts and the gender pay gap.'

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