Uni staff go on strike in pay and pensions row

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People march through Liverpool in support of the strike action by university workers on Tuesday. Pic © Jorge Capera JMU Journalism

Staff at four Merseyside universities have gone on strike this week over a dispute about pay and pensions.

University of Liverpool, Liverpool Hope, Edge Hill and Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts will be affected by eight days of industrial action after bosses failed to reach an agreement with the University and College Union (UCU) members.

Staff at Liverpool John Moores University did not vote in favour of joining the strike, which affects 60 institutions nationally.

Union officials claim that pension alterations could leave retiring lecturers £240,000 worse off, while professors will be hit hardest, losing up to £730,000.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) claims pension contributions have increased from 18% to 21.1% of salary, involving an extra £250m each year. They say further increases would be unaffordable.

UCU officials have also raised concerns on the issue of pay, claiming there had been a 17% real-terms drop since the turn of the decade, and that women and ethnic minority staff are suffering from pay inequality.

University of Liverpool lecturer, Dr Emma Segar, took part in Monday’s picket protest to demonstrate against pensions and zero-hour contracts.

She told JMU Journalism: “I’ve been an hourly-paid lecturer at Liverpool University for 10 years, so I’m glad we’re going to try and get some permanent contracts for people who are currently on zero-hour contracts.”

Twitter: Adam Higgins

Dr Segar also believes that a pension provides security for retiring workers. She said: “There should be something after people finish working so that they’re not just stuck doing hourly-paid work and not have enough money to even get a pension.

“I did a PhD three years ago and I’m still wondering where I’m going to work to get enough money to pay the bills. I could do with a pension when I retire.”

Despite the volume of the strike activity, universities say they are trying to keep disruption to a minimum.

Media officer for Edge Hill University, Nicky Speed, told JMU Journalism: “The University and Colleges Union is in dispute with employers over a pay award that is negotiated nationally.

“This is a national dispute and cannot be resolved at a local level. We are aware that UCEA continues to talk to the UCU in the hope of finding a solution to the dispute.

“Edge Hill is committed to supporting students and is ensuring that teaching and learning opportunities are disrupted as little as possible.”

The strikes, which today featured a large protest march through Liverpool city centre, are due to last until December 4th.

Twitter: Jorge Capera

About Adam Higgins, JMU Journalism