Lecturers to strike during exams over pay rise refusal

The Universities and Colleges Union will strike at the end of the month over pay rise deemed 'an insult'.

Antonia Velikova
16th May 2016

Universities and College Union members in Newcastle University will undertake strike action on Wednesday 25 May and Thursday 26 May as part of an ongoing dispute over pay cuts.

This is a part of a national decision after a ballot undertaken by the national UCU. Staff will also begin working to contract from 25 May, which means they will refuse to work overtime, set additional work or undertake any voluntary duties like covering timetabled classes for absent colleagues.

The planned strike action is in light of the ongoing regional ballot among UCU members about strike or action short of strike to counter University-led initiative for research expectations, Raising the Bar.

The dispute has arisen following a pay offer of 1.1% from the employer body, the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA), which the union has described as ‘an insult’. The national UCU said universities could afford to pay more and that the latest offer does little to address the real terms pay cut of 14.5% suffered by higher education staff since 2009.

“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,” said UCU general secretary Sally Hunt. “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 squeeze on staff salaries arrives when pay and benefits for university leaders have increased, on average, by 3%, with the average pay and pensions package for vice-chancellors standing at over £270,000.

If the ballot for industrial action against Raising the Bar, which ends on Tuesday, ends with a decision for a strike or action short of strike, marking exams in the end of May and beginning of June may be delayed.

Raising the Bar has been criticized by both staff and students for using what has been described as an ‘outdated’ form of performance management tactics.

The University is holding a Town Hall meeting with Vice Chancellor Chris Brink to discuss Raising the Bar on Tuesday 17 May in the Curtis Auditorium. A motion was also past at last week’s Student Council, mandating sabbatical officers to hold public consultation with students on the scheme.

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