University staff begin three-day strike - but Shrewsbury site will remain open

Staff at the University of Chester are on strike today but University Centre Shrewsbury will remain open throughout the action, education bosses have confirmed.

University Centre Shrewsbury
University Centre Shrewsbury

University and College Union (UCU) members will be manning picket lines at 58 universities across the country until Friday.

Last month UCU members at 58 institutions backed strike action in two separate ballots, one over pension cuts and one over pay and working conditions.

The 42 branches across the UK which voted but failed to meet trade union threshold of 50 per cent are being reballoted to join escalating action next year.

A spokesperson for the University of Chester said: “The UCU received a mandate for industrial action at 58 higher education institutions, including the University of Chester, and confirmed it is planning strike action from December 1 to 3.

“Students at University Centre Shrewsbury, as part of the University of Chester, have been advised that it will remain open throughout the strike action and the majority of teaching and learning will proceed as normal.

"They have been told that they should assume lectures, seminars and classes will take place as usual unless notified otherwise, and have been asked to check with their programme or department if they have any queries.

“The Guildhall library, computer rooms, and other learning environments and services will continue to be available throughout the period to enable ongoing support for our students and their studies.”

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “It is deeply regrettable that staff have been forced into taking industrial action again, but sadly university bosses have shown little interest in negotiating in good faith and addressing the serious concerns of staff over falling pay, massive pension cuts, equality pay gaps and the rampant use of insecure contracts.

“The truth is that staff are asking for the bare minimum in a sector awash with money. But sadly, the only time vice chancellors seem to listen is when staff take action, and those leading our universities should not underestimate their determination to change this sector for the better.”

The UCU claim staff pay has fallen by 20 per cent after twelve years of below inflation pay offers whilst almost 90,000 academic and academic-related staff are employed on insecure contracts.

The union also complain the gender pay gap in UK universities sits at 15 per cent, whilst the disability pay gap is nine per cent and the race pay gap is 17 per cent.

The increasing toxic nature of the working environment has also led to staff experiencing a crisis of work-related stress with over half showing probable signs of depression.

To resolve the pension dispute UCU is demanding employers revoke their pension proposals which would see a typical lecturer face a cut of 35 per cent to their guaranteed retirement income. To resolve the pay and working conditions dispute UCU is demanding a £2.5k pay increase for all staff, as well as action to tackle unmanageable workloads, pay inequality and insecure contracts that blight the sector.

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