Striking Reading University staff to boycott university's 90th birthday summer celebration

20 June 2016 | last updated: 21 June 2016

Staff at the University of Reading will go on strike on 22 June in a row over pay and boycott a staff celebration event organised by the institution to celebrate its 90th anniversary. The news is another blow for the university who had to cancel a planned World Record attempt as part of the 90th birthday celebrations earlier this year when protestors disrupted the event.

UCU members say their boycott of the university's "Staff Summer Celebration", will send a clear message to university leaders that the real-terms pay cut they have been offered this year is no cause for celebration.

UCU members will also be on picket lines at the three main entrance to the Whiteknights campus on Pepper Lane, Shinfield Road, and Earley Gate, between 7.30am and 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.

University of Reading UCU branch president, Paul Hatcher, said: 'We are fighting for fair pay and that is why we're boycotting the university's staff celebration. What have staff got to celebrate when they've suffered a real-terms pay cut of 14.5% since 2009?

'We're also taking a stand against the increasing use of insecure contracts which are undermining the academic role, and against the insidious pay inequality that sees many women earning less than men for the same work.'

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 bumper pay rises. Nobody wants to take industrial action, but clearly enough is enough.'

Members at Reading are in the first wave of institutions that will take part in strike action aimed at disrupting open days, graduation ceremonies and key university processes and meetings. More local branches are expected to announce their plans this week after union members voted to escalate their action earlier this month.

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.

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