Shropshire lecturers join national strikes as students offer support and mince pies

University lecturers and support staff have started three days of strike action over pay and working conditions.

Students Jo Flower and Pahaghiota Hole handed out mince pies and support to their lecturers
Students Jo Flower and Pahaghiota Hole handed out mince pies and support to their lecturers

A large picket formed at Harper Adams University, near Newport, on Thursday where they were given mince pies by students and hot drinks by management to sustain their campus protests.

They are also due to join in with the national action - that also involves Royal Mail workers and teachers - tomorrow and next Wednesday.

Deena Webster, who chairs the Harper Adams branch of the University and College Union (UCU), said: "Harper Adams is traditionally not a picketing campus, we have had low numbers before. But within the last few years we have grown stronger and the turn out today shows the strength of feeling.

"We have lots of single mothers and family members who have to try to pay their mortgages and put food on the table. We do not get lots of money, in fact we have had an effective 33 per cent pay cut compared to what it should have been to cover inflation since 2009."

Lab manager Victoria Talbot said: "People are leaving the university sector - there will not be any universities left if everyone leaves. If we want the best people you have got to pay a decent wage."

Ms Webster agreed that there is a sense of solidarity among her members as other unions, on the railways and Royal Mail, and nurses were striking over essentially the same issues.

"All public services are being affected. We have accepted it for so long but things are coming to the crunch and all lives are being affected.

"We need to have a say in what we are paid. The fact that different people are shouting from the same hymn sheet means something is wrong somewhere."

Picketing university staff gather at the Harper Adams campus near Newport

The strikers agreed that "every university needs to do better" although they praised Harper Adams for doing things like putting cleaners on contracts and not on casual contracts like everyone else.

Lucy Crockford, senior lecturer in soil and water management, said: "We are striking for our students."

The National Union of Students has added its support to the national action, and locally 22 year old food production and development students Jo Flower, and Pahaghiota Hole came out to give mince pies to their respected lecturing team. Jo said: "We absolutely support our lecturers because they are super-stressed."

Pahaghiota added: "We wanted to give them some treats, they are great lecturers. I am not upset about losing lectures - this needs to happen."

More than 70,000 staff at 150 universities across the UK have made it the biggest strike in the history of higher education and the union nationally is predicting historic turnout on its picket lines.

UCU members across the country overwhelmingly voted 'yes' to industrial action last month in two historic national ballots.

A Harper Adams spokesperson said: "We respect the right of employees to take part in strike action and remain, as a community, committed to ensuring that students are not disadvantaged and that their educational outcomes for this academic year will be achieved."

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