Exeposé News online (1 February 2014)
University staff and academics nationwide have announced a third day-long national strike, following continuing disputes over pay and conditions.
On Thursday 6th February, members of the four unions Unite, UCU, Unison and ESI in Scotland will take industrial action in a move which is expected to affect academic institutions across the UK, including the University of Exeter.
The planned action follows further disagreements concerning the one per cent pay rise offered to university employees. Union members argue that in real terms, this rise means that members’ wages have fallen by 13 per cent since October 2008.
The action is separate to the three two hour ‘interruptions’, and follows two full day strikes earlier in the academic year.
A spokesman for the Universities and Colleges Employers Association stated they were “disappointed to see yet another strike day called with the intention to affect students’ education, claiming the proposed pay increases represent the “limits of affordability for HE institutions”.
A spokesperson for the University of Exeter added that agreements have been ‘made on the basis of what all universities can afford. Many said they could not afford to pay more without imposing job cuts’.
Dan Ashley, speaking on behalf of UCU (University and College Union) told Exeposé that the members striking “have had enough of being told tiny pay increases… are at the limits of affordability when universities have built up healthy financial surpluses”.
Noting “very handsome pay rises” awarded to university vice-chancellors, he stated: “All staff want is fairness.
“As the employers continue to refuse to even negotiate a fairer pay offer, staff have been left with no alternative but to take strike action”.
He encouraged students frustrated by strike action to “lobby their vice-chancellor to put pressure on the employers’ negotiating team to come back to the table with a fair offer and get this dispute resolved as soon as possible”.
A University spokesperson has stated the institution “will once again seek to ensure that the minimum disruption is caused to students and others on the campus”, adding that it “will work with the campus trade unions to ensure that any picketing does not disrupt individuals coming to its campuses” next Thursday.
Despite the fact that trade union members make up fewer than 25 per cent of employees at Exeter, there is a strong likelihood that lectures and seminars may have to be cancelled and re-scheduled for later in the year.
As with other employers, the University will withhold pay from staff members participating in Thursday’s strike, with monies withheld being donated to the student hardship fund. The University has stated a hope that continuing national debates “will result in a quick resolution to the dispute”.