Sheffield universities affected as eight day strike begins

Lectures and seminars at Sheffield’s universities were affected as an eight-day strike over pay, conditions and pensions got underway.

Monday, 25th November 2019, 9:31 am
Updated Monday, 25th November 2019, 12:11 pm

The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University are among 60 universities across the country where staff are due to walk out over the dispute.

Up to 43,000 members of the University and College Union (UCU) are expected to take part in the industrial action, which it is estimated will disrupt lectures for more than a million students in the run-up to the Christmas break.

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Staff at Sheffield Hallam University are due to take part in the strike, which is set to affect 60 universities across the country (pic: Google)

Pickets lines are due to be mounted and demonstrations staged at universities around the country, with those going on strike including lecturers, student support services staff, admissions tutors, librarians, technicians and administrators.

The University of Sheffield is one of 42 universities nationally where staff are striking over pay and pensions, while Sheffield Hallam is one of 14 where workers are taking action over pay and conditions.

The strikes are due to take place on five days this week, and again for three days from Monday, December 2.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady has warned that a second wave of strikes could be held in the new year if no agreement can be reached.

Staff at the University of Sheffield are due to take part in the strike, which is set to affect 60 universities across the country

She said members had reached ‘breaking point’ over a number of issues, including workloads, real-terms cuts in pay, a 15 per cent gender pay gap and changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which the union says will leave members paying in more and receiving less in retirement.

The union estimates that the pension changes could leave lecturers around £240,000 worse off in retirement over their career, and up to £730,000 for professors. It also says many universities are employing academic staff on ‘discredited’ zero hours contracts.

Ms Grady said: “The employers seem to want to test the mettle of staff and see if they will turn up on picket lines.

“It is really unfortunate they have decided to do that because they are misjudging their staff. More and more people are joining the union and there is a real feeling of anger.

“There could be a second wave of strikes if we don't get a long term, sustainable offer and universities refuse to take our concerns seriously.”

Carol Costello, spokesman for the employers' side, said: "We will do all we can to ensure the strike does not impact badly on students and staff.

"The action and claims of the UCU that employers are forcing them into this cannot go unchallenged."

She said the union had made negotiating ‘impossible’ by insisting that employers pay the full cost of an increase in pension contributions, which she claimed was ‘unaffordable’ and could lead to cuts to courses and larger class sizes.