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UCLan staff join UK-wide university strike over pay and conditions

Posted on - 21st February, 2022 - 8:00am | Author - | Posted in - Education, Politics, Preston News, UCLan
UCLan's Student Centre and University Square
UCLan’s Student Centre and University Square

UCLan staff today join universities across the UK for five days of strike action over pay and conditions.

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University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) staff downed tools today (Monday 21 February) in a pay and working conditions dispute, with demands including a £2.5k pay rise for all university employees.

The strike lasts for five days – today and tomorrow (Tuesday 22 February), and Monday 28 February to Wednesday 2 March, with staff picketing from 9 to 11am in front of the Engineering Innovation Centre on University Square.

Read more: UCLan to see five days of lecturer strikes over pay 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘The university sector continues to bring in tens of billions of pounds each year.

“But the staff who make it work have endured 13 years of real-term pay cuts and the indignity of trying to make ends meet on exploitative and insecure contracts.

“Vice-chancellors on eye-watering salaries have serious questions to answer as to why they have allowed staff pay to fall by over 25 per cent since 2009, further exposing them to the cost of living crisis.

“Staff are not asking for the world. They want secure contracts, decent pay and manageable workloads.”

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The University and College Union (UCU) estimates staff pay has fallen by more than a quarter (25.5 per cent) in real terms since 2009.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) has refused to budge on its offer of a 1.5 per cent increase on existing salaries for 2021/22.

UCLan and 23 other institutions across the UK join UCU members at 44 universities who walked out last week over a 35 per cent cut to their guaranteed pension income.

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In total, 68 universities have strike action lasting up to 10 days.

Grady said: “Instead of listening to the longstanding concerns of their workforce, employers have pushed them to breaking point, and now half are reporting signs of depression.

“During these strikes, the support of students has been overwhelming. In their thousands, they have lobbied their vice-chancellors, and we are proud that on Wednesday 2 March, they will be taking UK-wide strike action alongside staff.

“It’s high time this world-leading sector stopped dining off the goodwill and dedication of its staff and started treating them with dignity.”

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New inflation figures mean UCU estimates staff pay is now down by more than a quarter in real terms since 2009, with over 70,000 academics employed on insecure contracts.

The gender pay gap in UK universities sits at 16 per cent, whilst the disability pay gap is 9 per cent, and the race pay gap is up to 17 per cent.

Staff are also experiencing a crisis of work-related stress, with over half showing signs of depression.

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Staff striking over pay and working conditions are demanding an end to the race, gender and disability pay injustice, a framework to eliminate zero-hours and other insecure contracts, meaningful action to tackle unmanageable workloads, and a £2.5k pay rise for all university employees.

Staff are engaged in action short of a strike (ASOS), which involves working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action, or undertaking any voluntary activities.

UCEA has authorised bosses to withhold the pay of staff taking ASOS, with Manchester Metropolitan University claiming it will be deducting pay.

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The union said universities could more than afford to meet staff demands.

University figures show total income across the sector is around £41.9bn, with reserves of £46.8bn.

On average, vice-chancellors have pay packages of £269k per year.

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The National Union of Students (NUS) is taking action and has organised a student strike on Wednesday 2 March.

The strike dates, with the number of institutions involved, are:

  • Last week: (USS pension dispute only – 44 institutions): 5 days; Monday 14 to Friday 18 February.
  • This week: (the pension and the pay and working conditions dispute – 68 institutions): 2 days; Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 February.
  • Next week: (pay and working conditions dispute only – 63 institutions): 3 days; Monday 28 February, Tuesday 1 and Wednesday 2 March.

A spokesperson for the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) said: “Following the national strike ballots in relation to pay and conditions, UCU has confirmed that strike action will take place at UCLan over five days. These are: 21, 22, 28 February followed by 1 and 2 March. This is due to a national dispute over pay and conditions across the Higher Education sector, including the 2021/2022 staff pay award.

“The decision to strike is very disappointing and first and foremost our concern is for our students. They have already been through a period of considerable uncertainty and disruption due to the pandemic so we will do everything we can to minimise the strike’s impact by putting contingency plans in place.”

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