Strikes at universities of Northumbria, Newcastle and Durham to hit open days

30 June 2016 | last updated: 1 July 2016

UCU members at the universities of Northumbria, Newcastle and Durham will be on strike this week as part of a wave of nationwide strikes in a row over pay and conditions.

Staff at all three institutions will walk out to coincide with open days taking place at the universities. UCU members at Northumbria and Newcastle will walk out tomorrow (Friday 1 July), while their colleagues in Durham will take action a day later on Saturday (2 July)

At Northumbria, striking staff will be outside the Sport Central and Sutherland buildings to welcome students and their parents as they arrive for the open day and explain more about the union's fight for fair pay and conditions.

Over at Newcastle, staff will also lobby students and parents as they arrive for their open day at the St Thomas Street, Claremont Road and King's Gate entrances to the university from 8am.

On Saturday at Durham, UCU members will be picketing entrances to the university's science site on South Road and Stockton Road, as well as the two Elvet Riverside entrances from 9am.

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 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.

UCU regional official for the north-east, Iain Owens said: 'Our targeted strike action is the direct 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. Nobody wants to take strike action, but our members have been left with no choice.'

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. 

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