ACROSS the UK yesterday morning, university lecturers and staff walked out on strike against an ‘insulting’ 1% pay offer which, when taken into account with the spiralling cost of food, rent and energy, amounts to a big pay cut.
Buildings, departments and entire universities’ classes were shut across the country because of the joint strike action from three unions that represent university lecturers and staff: UCU, Unite and Unison.
Lecturers union UCU said: ‘All teaching at Liverpool John Moores University and Liverpool Hope University has been cancelled.
‘The chemistry department at Loughborough is shut. Libraries across the country are shut, although they had taken to Twitter to tell students that books due back today could be brought back tomorrow without a fine.’
Staff were outside the main entrances to the University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University and the University of Creative Arts Canterbury by 8.00am.
UCU continued: ‘Staff are angry at the employers’ refusal to budge from a 1% pay offer, which represents a real-terms pay cut of 13% since 2008.’
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: ‘Staff, from porters to professors, have walked out this morning in protest at some of the most sustained pay cuts since the Second World War.
‘Nobody wants to be on strike but a 13% real-terms pay cut, as vice-chancellors’ pay continues to increase and universities’ surpluses build up, simply is not fair.
‘Although still early, we are already hearing news of closed departments and buildings, with some universities’ entire teaching cancelled for the day.
‘If the employers try to spin the action as having little impact, then it merely shows how out of touch they are with what is really happening on the ground at universities.
‘We are disappointed and annoyed that the employers are still refusing to talk to us and have wasted the past few weeks trying to undermine their staff’s actions and, once again, ignored their concerns.’
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: ‘Taking strike action is never an easy decision, especially for those already struggling on low pay. With Christmas less than two months away, losing a day’s pay is even harder, but it shows just how angry and upset our members feel at this miserly 1% offer.
‘Even members earning above the Living Wage are finding their incomes squeezed to breaking point. It is a disgrace that universities are sitting on cash surpluses worth £2bn but they are not prepared to reward their staff, who are the backbone of our world-class university system.’
At the University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich, there were four well-staffed picket lines with all three unions – UCU, Unison and Unite – out in force around the various entrances.
News Line spoke to Tim Southern, Branch President of the UCU lecturers and administrative staff union. At the main gate he said: ‘We’re striking today because of pay, we’ve been offered 1% and we think that this is very little as we have suffered a 13%decline in our pay over the last four years.
‘There are large surpluses in the higher education sector and we think that it is really about time that management started sharing some of those surpluses with the workers.
‘Our standard of living has declined for four years now.
‘I think that it is very good that today we have got Unison and Unite as well as UCU all agreeing that the pay offer is inadequate, and we are very pleased to be working together.’