Sheffield lecturers to go on strike

Lecturers at Sheffield's two universities are to start a two-day strike today.
Sheffield Hallam UniversitySheffield Hallam University
Sheffield Hallam University

The strike was called after talks failed to resolve a pay row.

Members of the University and College Union will refuse to work overtime, set additional work or undertake any voluntary duties such as covering classes for absent colleagues.

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If the dispute is not resolved in the coming weeks, members have agreed to further strike action which could affect open days, graduation ceremonies and the clearing process.

The union is also beginning preparations for a boycott of the setting and marking of students' work to begin in the autumn.

The union has rejected a 1.1 per cent pay offer from employers, arguing that universities could afford to pay more after the pay and benefits of university leaders went up by 5.1 per cent last year.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "A 1.1 per cent pay offer is an insult to hardworking staff, especially in light of the five per cent pay rise vice-chancellors have enjoyed while holding down staff pay. Members have made it clear that they won't tolerate a continued squeeze on their income, pay inequality and the increasing job insecurity blighting the sector.

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"It's time to invest properly in the teachers, researchers and administrators who are the backbone of our universities. Industrial action which impacts on students is never taken lightly, but members feel that they have been left with no alternative. If the employers wish to see a swift end to this dispute, and avoid further disruption, they need to come back to the table with a much-improved offer."

Ruth Barley, branch secretary of the UCU at Sheffield Hallam, said: "The growing economic inequality in higher education across the UK is at the heart of this pay dispute.

"While vice-chancellor pay continues to increase, university staff pay is falling in real terms, the gender pay gap remains stubbornly high and universities are increasingly reliant on casualised staff.

"In the wider context of privatization of higher education set out by government, we cannot accept continued attacks on our working conditions in line with similar attacks that school teachers and junior doctors are currently fending off. Strike action is always a last resort, but UCU strongly believes that we need to fight back now to stop the continuing erosion of our higher educations sector which would be detrimental for staff and students alike."

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Craig Brandist, president of the UCU at the University of Sheffield, said: "Universities are not listening to staff anger over the shocking gender pay gap, extreme levels of casualisation and widening pay inequality, and are putting staff pay at the bottom of their priority lists.

"Soaring vice-chancellor salaries and surpluses on balance sheets show that universities are making a choice in allowing pay for the majority to erode. As the junior doctors have shown, sometimes strike action is the only way to get to meaningful negotiation, which has been sadly lacking in recent years."