Staff at three universities begin three-day strike in row over pay and pensions

Staff at Aston, Birmingham and Keele universities are on strike today over falling pay and pension cuts.

University and College Union (UCU) members will be manning picket lines at 58 universities across the country until Friday.

Last month UCU members at 58 institutions backed strike action in two separate ballots, one over pension cuts and one over pay and working conditions.

The 42 branches across the UK which voted but failed to meet trade union threshold of 50 per cent are being re-balloted to join escalating action next year.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "It is deeply regrettable that staff have been forced into taking industrial action again, but sadly university bosses have shown little interest in negotiating in good faith and addressing the serious concerns of staff over falling pay, massive pension cuts, equality pay gaps and the rampant use of insecure contracts.

"The truth is that staff are asking for the bare minimum in a sector awash with money. But sadly, the only time vice chancellors seem to listen is when staff take action, and those leading our universities should not underestimate their determination to change this sector for the better."

The UCU claim staff pay has fallen by 20 per cent after twelve years of below inflation pay offers whilst almost 90,000 academic and academic-related staff are employed on insecure contracts.

The union also complain the gender pay gap in UK universities sits at 15 per cent, whilst the disability pay gap is nine per cent and the race pay gap is 17 per cent.

The increasing toxic nature of the working environment has also led to staff experiencing a crisis of work-related stress with over half showing probable signs of depression.

To resolve the pension dispute UCU is demanding employers revoke their pension proposals which would see a typical lecturer face a cut of 35 per cent to their guaranteed retirement income. To resolve the pay and working conditions dispute UCU is demanding a £2.5k pay increase for all staff, as well as action to tackle unmanageable workloads, pay inequality and insecure contracts that blight the sector.

Keele University branch of UCU tweeted: "We are delighted that Keele students have passed a motion in support of the industrial action we are taking next week. We look forward to collaborating with the student union to further the cause of students and staff in HE."

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