UCU stages pay walk-out

University staff have taken part in a second two-hour strike over this year’s 1 per cent pay offer

January 28, 2014

Thousands of University and College Union members joined protests on campuses across the UK on 28 January during the walk-out between 2pm and 4pm.

The action follows a similar walk-out on 23 January, with a third whole-day strike due to take place on 6 February when workers from Unite, Unison and EIS unions will also be involved.

About one in five universities are set to deduct an entire day’s pay for the two-hour stoppage, claiming the action constitutes “partial performance” for the whole day, the UCU has reported, though the Universities and Colleges Employers Association says the figure is closer to half of all institutions.

UCU has said it will pursue any universities who “unfairly” withhold a whole day’s pay for the two-hour actions, stating such actions are an attempt to “bully” staff into stopping industrial action.

The latest industrial action follows discontent over a 1 per cent pay offer for 2012-13, which follows four successive below-inflation rises that unions claim have led to a 13 per cent cut in wages in real terms since 2009.

However, Ucea have said they expected a repeat of 23 January when “almost all higher education institutions reported no or low impact on institutional operations and teaching”.

Claiming there is “very limited support for this dispute” among university staff as a whole, a Ucea spokesman added: “Staff in higher education institutions know that the 3 per cent or more that has already been spent on pay increases for last year is at the limits of what can be afforded.”

With talk now centred on the next steps for the unions, many are calling for members to escalate the action by holding a marking boycott in the summer term.

That is only the way to win further concessions from employers, who have refused to improve the 1 per cent pay offer, said Gregor Gall, professor of industrial relations at the University of Bradford.

“Winning the dispute, which would mean getting at least a 2 per cent rise given the lost pay so far, is going to take much more hard hitting action than strikes,” said Professor Gall.

“Whilst the unions wish to act together, most easily through striking, it is the UCU members in particular that have the potential leverage to ‘stop the system’ and so revisiting the no exam setting and no exam marking tactics is essential,” he added.

Meanwhile, outsourced cleaners at the University of London travelled on an open-top bus around the capital as they held a strike to gain the same sick pay, holiday pay and pensions as directly employed staff.

The three-day action, which began on January, has involved members of the Independent Workers of Great Britain, a union not recognised by cleaning firm Cofely, which was previously known as Balfour Beatty Workplace.

The action follows a two-day strike in November, which led to an improved offer from Cofely, which it says was negotiated by Unison.

“We’ve made great progress thus far, but our fight will continue until we win all our demands,” said Sonia Chura, vice-chair of the University of London Branch of the IWGB.

A University of London spokesman said its buildings had remained open and the strike had had a “minimum impact on operations”.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

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