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University of Wolverhampton lecturers to strike in row over pay

20 June 2016

UCU members at the University of Wolverhampton will be on strike on Wednesday (22 June) as part of a wave of nationwide strikes in a row over pay and conditions.

Staff at the university have timed their action to coincide with exam boards happening on Wednesday and will be out on picket lines from 8:30am on the Gorway Road entrance to the Walsall campus and the entrance to the MA building on Wulfruna Street at the city campus.

Exam boards are due to meet in the education, health and wellbeing; arts; social sciences; and science and engineering departments.

The dispute has arisen following a pay offer of just 1.1% from the universities' employers, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association. 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.

Local UCU members are particularly unimpressed at the hypocrisy of their vice-chancellor, Geoff Layer. On 17 May Layer wrote to members of staff expressing disappointment over their intention to take strike action ahead of the first two days of strike action that took place at the end of May. He also set out his support of the 1.1% pay offer from UCEA.

Just two days later Layer was revealed to have received a pay hike of 19.6% in a report looking at senior pay in universities. Since 2010 the amount spent on staff by UK 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.

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 representative at the University of Wolverhampton, Catherine Lamond, said: 'University staff can no longer put up with the continued squeeze on their income. We have suffered years of real-terms pay cuts, constant demands to do more for less and an increase in the numbers of staff being employed on the type of contracts you would expect to find in Sports Direct, not at a university.

'Industrial action is always a last resort, but clearly universities have little understanding of the problems staff face. At Wolverhampton we have a vice-chancellor defending the paltry 1% pay offer while pocketing a 20% hike himself. 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