University open days targeted by strikes

Staff at eight UK universities will walk out on scheduled student open days as part of pay dispute

June 10, 2016
University and College Union (UCU) flag hanging on statue
Source: Rex

Eight universities will be hit by strike action targeting student open days and other campus events over the coming week as part of industrial action over pay.

Members of the University and College Union’s branch at the University of Winchester will lead the first of what the union says will be a “wave of nationwide strikes” when they walk out on 11 June as the institution holds an open day for potential students and their parents.

Staff at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Kent will walk out on 14 June, with UCU members holding similar targeted strike action at the universities of Sussex, Bath, Bristol and Glasgow, as well as the University of the West of Scotland, later in the week.

Other universities are finalising strike plans for further summer disruptions, the UCU says.

The action follows a two-day national strike over the proposed 1.1 per cent pay offer for 2016-17, which has been branded “unacceptable” and “insulting” by the UCU.

Sally Hunt, the UCU’s general secretary, said that university staff have been “left with no alternative but to escalate their industrial action after universities refused to come back to the negotiating table with a fair offer”.

She said: “Targeted disruptions will be taking place across the UK until the employers recognise the anger staff feel at having their pay held down, while a few at the top continue to be handsomely rewarded.”

Universities have claimed that the offer is “at, and for some beyond, a limit of affordability for higher institutions” and remain committed to the “fair final offer they have made”, according to the Universities and Colleges Employers Association.

Employers say that the two-day strike held on 25 and 26 May had “little or no impact” on institutions, with student examinations largely unaffected.

“UCU’s latest call on its members to take strike action to target their own individual higher education institutions, including their open days, is, of course, disappointing,” a Ucea spokesman commented.

However, “few academic staff actually voted to support industrial action”, the sector body claimed, saying that just 9 per cent of UCU members (about 5,000 staff) had taken part in action, representing about 3 per cent of academics.

Ucea added that the UCU should “conduct a consultation that enables their members to consider all the elements of the full, fair and final offer that is on the table”.

In addition to the walkouts, UCU members have started working to contract, which means that they will refuse to work overtime, set additional work or undertake any voluntary duties such as covering timetabled classes for absent colleagues.

The UCU has also called on external examiners to resign their positions on exam boards, a move that it says threatens to disrupt marking this summer when boards meet to discuss challenged marks.

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Reader's comments (1)

While walkouts during highly visible open days are a good idea, they don't go far enough. Only a sustained period of across the board strikes will bring employers back to the bargaining table. A tough line must be held to.

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