University staff warn of further strikes, after 24-hour walkout (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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University staff warn of further strikes, after 24-hour walkout
UNION leaders have warned further strikes could follow, after hundreds of North-East university staff staged a 24-hour walkout over pay.
Members of the three main unions at every university in the region walked out today (Thursday, October 31), as part of a national dispute.
Unions claimed many institutions resembled “ghost towns” as lectures were cancelled and libraries and university services closed.
It was the first time the University and College Union (UCU), Unison and Unite unions had taken co-ordinated action, meaning professors and porters rubbed shoulders on the picket lines.
Liz Lawrence, UCU’s national vice-president, who visited Teesside and Durham universities before addressing a rally in Newcastle, said there had been strong support for the action across the region.
UCU members will now “work to contract”, she said, and the union will consider further strikes if meaningful negotiations do not follow.
The unions say university staff have seen their pay cut by 13 per cent in real terms since 2008, while vice-chancellors have enjoyed large pay increases. This year, staff have been offered a one per cent pay rise.
Ms Lawrence called on universities to implement the Living Wage (£7.45 an hour outside London) and offer above-inflation pay increases so salaries “catch up”.
The walkout affected 149 universities across the UK, with varying levels of disruption.
The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which expressed disappointment at the strike, claimed it was having minimal impact.
On the dispute, a spokesman said many university staff received other contributions which meant the one per cent offer would mean pay increasing by three per cent overall.
Professor Chris Higgins, vice-chancellor of Durham University, said it fully understood the financial pressures on staff but expressed regret at the strike.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Science expressed disappointment, saying students had the right to expect their learning would not be disrupted.
But Ms Lawrence said many students had supported the strike accused the Government of trying to set students against lecturers.
She said she accepted workers in other sectors were facing tough times but the UCU stood in solidarity with them, adding touring the North-East picket lines had been “inspiring”.
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