University of Winchester to lead fresh wave of nationwide strike action in pay dispute

Union member says parents would be 'shocked' to learn their children are 'likely to be taught by staff on zero-hours contracts'

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Tuesday 07 June 2016 11:23 BST
Glasgow University staff take part in a similar strike over pay in 2013 (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty)
Glasgow University staff take part in a similar strike over pay in 2013 (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty)

University open days and graduation ceremonies are set to be disrupted this week in a fresh wave of strikes in a dispute over pay.

Staff at the University of Winchester will lead nationwide action when they walk out on 10 June to coincide with an open day for potential students and their parents.

The move will come almost two weeks after university staff from across the UK staged a two-day walkout after talks failed to resolve a pay row between UCU and the universities' representatives, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA).

The dispute has come following a pay offer of 1.1 per cent from UCEA. UCU has been arguing that universities afford to pay more, adding the latest offer “did little to address the real terms pay cut of 14.5 per cent its members have suffered since 2009.”

The UCU has further argued the squeeze on staff salaries comes despite vice-chancellors “enjoying a 6.1 per cent pay hike.”

UCU 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, the union says female academics are paid around £6,100 per year less than their male counterparts, while almost half of university teachers are on “insecure contracts.”

Since 2010, UCU said the amount spent on staff by universities as a percentage of total income has dropped by three per cent, despite the total of cash in reserves increasing by 72 per cent to over £21bn.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “Universities need to recognise staff will no longer accept their pay being held down while a few at the top enjoy the rewards of increased money for universities. Nobody wants to take industrial action, but, clearly, enough is enough.”

University of Winchester UCU branch chair, Mick Jardine, described how parents would be “shocked” to learn their children are “likely to be taught by staff on zero-hours contracts.” He added: “We will be lobbying them and their children as they arrive on Friday to explain the reality of life for university staff.”

Both the university and UCEA have yet to respond to the Independent’s request for comment.

In a previous UCEA statement, however, a spokesperson said the UCU’s two-day walkout on 25 and 26 May saw higher education (HE) institutions report that strike action was “having minimal impact on their students.”

Though, the spokesperson added: “HE institutions remain disappointed by UCU’s campaign and to see any staff striking when there is a 2016/17 fair and final offer on the table.

“Seeing any industrial action is naturally disappointing, given the very good pay offer, plus the joint work on gender pay and casual employment that is on the table.”

UCU is also calling on external examiners to resign their positions on exam boards, a move which would threaten to disrupt marking this summer when boards meet to discuss challenged marks.

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