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University lecturers to strike at the end of May

University lecturers to strike at the end of May

University lecturers are due to go on strike on 25 and 26 May as part of an ongoing dispute over pay. Participating lecturers will also work strictly to the terms of their contracts, refusing to work overtime, set additional work, or take on any voluntary activities.

The University and College Union (UCU) have been involved in a dispute with the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA) for six years over what the UCU have described as a “squeeze on staff salaries” which has amounted to a real-term pay cut of 14.5 per cent.

The latest disagreement between the two unions has come from a rejection by UCU of an offered 1.1 per cent pay rise, stating, “universities could afford to pay more and that the latest offer does little to address the real terms pay cut”. UCU has further added that vice-chancellors have received an average pay increase of three per cent, making the 1.1 per cent offer “an insult to the hard work and dedication of higher education staff”. The University of Kent’s Vice Chancellor, Dame Julia Goodfellow, received a pay rise of £43,000 in the 2013/14 academic year.5559964880_2371b8ed6a_o

UCU has stated that beyond these strikes, further action has been agreed to take place in June and July if an agreement has not been reached. Action in August is also said to be under consideration, something which would coincide with the release of A-level results and students finding out whether they will be attending university. Should poor relations extend through till the next academic year, the union is also preparing to boycott setting and grading the work of students in from autumn.

The UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “Members in higher education have sent a clear message to employers that, after six years of real-terms pay cuts amounting to 14.5%, they will not tolerate a continued squeeze on their income. Industrial action which impacts on students is never taken lightly, but staff feel that they have been left with no alternative.

“A 1.1% offer is an insult to the hard work and dedication of higher education staff, particularly in light of the 3% average pay rise enjoyed by vice-chancellors this year. The ball is now in UCEA’s court, but the employers need to come back to the table with a much improved offer if they wish to avoid significant disruption to students in the coming months.”

The UCEA have responded to the announcement of strikes by calling them “disappointing for higher education institutions”, and further accused the UCU of trying to “cause disruption”.

In a statement, UCEA said: “The vast majority of staff in HE institutions understand the reality of the current environment and do not support action that could harm both their institutions and their students.

“A strike, following a properly conducted ballot, is entirely lawful but withdrawing labour is a breach of contract leaving HE institutions with no choice but to deduct full pay from any member of staff taking strike action. UCEA and the HE institutions are dismayed that the UCU has targeted students from the very outset of pay discussions.”

Lecturer strikes at Kent have not been unheard of in the past few years, but neither are they common. It is currently unclear whether the University of Kent will be affected by these strikes, and if it is, how many lecturers will participate.

UPDATE 23/05/16: Exams taking place on 25 and 26 May will not be affected by the strike action.

You can read about previous lecturer strikes at Kent from 2013, and 2014 here, here, and here.

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