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The National Union of Students (NUS) has announced it will continue to support industrial action by members of the University and Colleges Union (UCU) despite the disruption it will cause students.
UCU intends to hold three two-hour strikes over the next four weeks, aiming to disrupt teaching at UK universities (including Lancaster) as part of an ongoing row with university employers over pay. One of the two-hour stoppages will take place between 11am and 1pm on Thursday Week 2. A further two strikes will be held on Tuesday Week 3 and Monday Week 5.
The strikes follow two days of industrial action during Michaelmas Term, with many UCU members already working to contract.
The University and College Employers’ Association (UCEA) – which represents University management across the United Kingdom – have offered academics a one percent pay rise, which would see their wages decrease by twelve percent in real terms.
The NUS confirmed today that it will continue to support industrial action by the UCU. In an email sent to officers of student unions across the country, NUS President Toni Pearce and Vice President (Higher Education) Rachel Wenstone affirmed the NUS’ support for the rights of staff to challenge unfair pay and conditions. “We would remind you that NUS believes that lecturers and other staff in our universities and colleges should be properly supported and remunerated,” the email read.
“We believe that fair pay is an issue of fairness in itself, but also note that there are very clear benefits to students that pay is at a level which attracts excellent staff, and helps to support the maintenance of a happy and motivated workforce.”
Pearce and Wenstone did acknowledge, however, that students desire a swift resolution to the dispute, and urged both sides to come back to the negotiating table. “NUS met with both UCU and UCEA yesterday [Monday Week 2] for an update on the industrial relations situation in advance of this new round of action to hear both perspectives and to ask a number of questions.”
The email also suggested that some universities are planning to dock a full day’s pay from members of staff who take part in this latest round of industrial action. It is as yet unclear whether Lancaster is one such institution.
Rachel Harvey, LUSU Vice President (Campaigns and Communications), confirmed that LUSU would continue to support the UCU’s industrial action. Union Council voted by an overwhelming majority to support strike action by the UCU, Unison and Unite unions, during the session of Thursday Week 2, Michaelmas Term.
This new round of industrial action comes within the context of an article published by the Times Higher Education website, which revealed significant pay rises for Vice Chancellors at many UK higher education institutions. The UCU said the news highlighted University management’s “hypocrisy.”
UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt, wrote on the UCU’s website: “despite another embarrassing round of embarrassing revelations about the very handsome pay rises those at the very top have enjoyed recently, universities are still refusing to improve a miserly 1% pay offer and are still oblivious to the hypocrisy of their actions.”
In examination of the University’s recently released financial records for 2013, it appears that Lancaster’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Mark E. Smith, has not been given such a pay rise.