University staff begin second wave of strike action

Stiking university staff – including those at Queen’s (QUB) and the Ulster University (UU) – have been “given a boost” by support from the National Union of Students.

Thursday, 20th February 2020, 1:58 pm
UCU members begin 14 day strike action due to a long-running dispute about pay and pensions. Union members pictured at Queen's University, Belfast. Picture: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

As the second wave of strike action began on Thursday, the University and College Union (UCU) said the NUS support “sends a clear message to universities that, instead of focusing on silly games and spinning in the run up the walkouts, they should have been working with us to try and sort things out”.

Lecturers and support staff at QUB and the UU are taking part in the 14 days of industrial action.

The UCU has said the various disputes, involving a total of 74 universities – centre on “the sustainability of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and rising costs for members, and on universities’ failure to make significant improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads”.

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The union also said that Universities UK (the universities’ representatives in the pensions dispute) has “declared it was not going to make a new offer – and that the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (the universities’ representatives in the pay and conditions dispute) “would still not talk to the union about the crucial pay element of the dispute”.

Student representative Robert Murtagh said the “marketisation of higher education” is “resulting in the increasing casualisation of work for university staff and placing significant stress on both staff and students”.

The NUS-USI president said: “This second round of strike action has come in response to the universities’ failure to make significant improvements on pay, pensions, equality, casualisation and workloads.

“I understand the concerns of students who are now facing further disruption to their studies, close to final exams. But we know that lecturers and support staff would much rather be spending their time educating students.

“They have been forced into this position by the continued unwillingness of universities to deal with problems which have been building for over a decade.

“Our education system is broken, and staff and students are paying the price.”