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University staff announce third national strike as pay row escalates

  • @Tom_Mendelsohn

Staff and academics at universities across the country have announced a third day-long national strike, the next step in an escalating battle over pay and conditions.

Members of four unions representing staff from all walks of university life, - Unite, Unison, UCU and EIS in Scotland - will down tools for the day on Thursday, 6 February, in an action separate to the three days of rolling two-hour strikes taking place last week, this week and next month.

Universities across the UK are likely to face disruption to academic life, with lectures, seminars, workshops and tutorials cancelled or postponed. Technicians and administrators will also join picket lines, alongside support staff cleaners and estates employees.

The latest move is a further escalation of the unions' industrial action over a one per cent pay rise offered to university staff. They insist that the pay offer means that their members have faced a 13 per cent pay cut in real terms since October 2008.

Two one-day national strikes were staged in the autumn, while UCU, which represents academic staff, is currently holding a series of two-hour stoppages which they say is aimed at disrupting teaching.

Mike McCartney, Unite's national officer for education, said: "Our members have endured a six-year pay drought which has seen a 13 per cent cut in pay in real terms since 2008.

"In the context of the cost of living crisis, the current one per cent on offer is paltry. This also has to be seen against the background of the top university vice chancellors having an average £22,000 pay rise in 2012-13."

He added: "This will be the third day of strike action our members have taken - and more industrial action is on the cards in 2014, unless the employers get around the table to negotiate a fair and equitable settlement for those that keep Britain in the top 10 global university league table.

University employers said that they are disappointed that another strike has been called, adding that institutions are reporting "low to no support" for the walkout.

A spokesman for the Universities and Colleges Employers Association said: "We are disappointed to see yet another strike day called with the intention to affect students' education, and that the trade unions continue to present a partial picture on HE pay.

"The pay increases this year, comprising the nationally negotiated rise which was implemented in December and backdated to August 2013, individual increments and merit awards are costing around three per cent and this is at the limits of affordability for HE institutions. Actual earnings in HE have not seen anything like the decline that the unions are claiming."