Open day at University of Sheffield to be hit by pay strike

21 June 2016 | last updated: 24 June 2016

UCU members at the University of Sheffield will be on strike on Thursday (23 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 an open day for prospective students and their parents. Union members will lobby students and parents as they arrive to explain more about their campaign for fair pay and better conditions, and will hold an alternative open day.

Their action has already forced the postponement of exam board meetings in the school of mathematics and statistics and the faculty of arts who have pushed their meetings back a day until Friday.

Striking staff will be on picket lines outside the main entrances to the university at Firth Court, the Hicks Building and the Mappin Building from 8am.

The alternative open day will take place at the students' union from 10am-2pm where students and their striking lecturers will deliver a series of short talks exploring subjects such as academic career paths, the changing nature of higher education, where students' fee income goes.

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 can afford to pay more and the offer did little to address the real-terms pay cut of 14.5% that members have suffered since 2009.

The squeeze on staff salaries comes despite vice-chancellors enjoying a 6.1% pay hike. The University of Sheffield vice-chancellor Professor Keith Burnett is the 12th best paid university head in the country. He received £385,000 for the 2014/15 academic year. He had previously courted controversy in 2014 when it was revealed that he had received a 29% pay rise the previous year.

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-hours contracts. On average, female academics are paid £6,103 less a year than their 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 reserves has rocketed by 72% to stand at over £21bn. The nationwide strikes over pay began with two national strike days in May and now UCU members at separate institutions are striking to disrupt local events such as open days and graduation ceremonies. More details are available here and via the Twitter hashtag #FairpayinHE.

UCU local representative, Professor Craig Brandist, said: 'Our targeted strike action is a result of the employers' failure to deal with the declining real-terms pay of university staff or tackle the problems of growing numbers of zero-hours contracts and the persistent gender pay gap.

'Members have been left with no alternative but to take this action. As well as being on picket lines on Thursday morning, we will be holding a good-natured alternative open day where current and prospective students and their parents can come and learn more about our campaign and the changing nature of higher education.'

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