Thousands of academics and university staff will walk out on 23 January for two hours between 11am and 1pm after the University and College Union launched the latest stage of industrial action over this year’s “miserly” 1 per cent pay offer.
Further two-hour stoppages will take place on 28 January between 2pm to 4pm and 10 February between 9am and 11am.
The action follows two day-long strikes in October and December over the proposed pay deal, which union leaders claim is “an insult too far” after successive below-inflation pay deals caused members’ salary levels to fall by 13 per cent in real terms since 2009, they estimate.
“Any kind of disruption is always a last resort but, after five years of pay suppression and members 13 per cent worse off in real terms, we have little option but to escalate our action”, said Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary.
The union believes the latest walk-outs will lead to the cancellation of tens of thousands of lectures, seminars, tutorials and supervised laboratory sessions.
A spokesman for Universities and Colleges Employers Association, which negotiates pay on behalf on higher education institutions, branded the two-hour stoppages “a cynical move to cause, in the union’s own terms ‘maximum disruption’ while ‘minimising cost to members’”.
“Institutions will do their very best to protect students but this industrial action is designed to damage the student experience,” he said.
Ucea said that the overwhelming majority of staff understood that higher pay increases are “neither affordable nor sustainable” and there is “no scope for further pay increases beyond those already paid last year”.
The strike follows revelations that several vice-chancellors enjoyed large pay rises in 2012-13, according to newly-available university accounts, while only offering 1 per cent to rank-and-file staff.
“Despite another embarrassing round of embarrassing revelations about the very handsome pay rises those at the very top have enjoyed recently, universities are still refusing to improve a miserly 1 per cent pay offer and are still oblivious to the hypocrisy of their actions,” said Ms Hunt.
Union leaders claim universities can afford to improve their offer, citing documents published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which say surpluses are “better than expected”, running at about 4.2 per cent of income (£900 million in total) this year and at similar levels in the short-to-medium terms, though this will dip to 2.9 per cent in the next academic year.
Ucea has said the 1 per cent pay increase was implemented last month and backdated to August 2013. It also claims overall pay increases totalled around 3 per cent in most institutions, which included the 1 per cent rise for all as well as incremental increases and merit awards.