Universities across the country face shutdown on Thursday as lecturers and other higher education workers prepare to strike against a series of below-inflation pay offers from government.
Members of the UCU lecturers’ union will be joined by Unite and Unison members in strikes across higher education – including Bournemouth University (BU) where staff belong to UCU and Unison.
The unions complain that the 1 per cent pay increase would mean a real terms pay cut due to the higher rate of inflation. This has meant a real terms pay decrease of 13 per cent since 2009.
BU UCU chair John Brissenden said, “Members of UCU and Unison decided they can no longer tolerate having their pay cut every year.
“Strike action is the last ditch effort to persuade the employer to make a reasonable offer.
“Stay away from university on Thursday and write to the VC to push for a speedy resolution to the dispute” – John Brissenden, UCU
“We’re also seeking a fair pay deal for the lowest paid workers in higher education, whether employed by the university or privately, like canteen staff.”
The pay dispute is made more bitter by the rapid growth of salaries for university managers.
The average salary for a vice-chancellor (VC) is now £250,000. BU VC John Vinney had a comparatively modest pay increase of 2.84 per cent last year – with a salary of £178,000 (plus £3,000 benefits).
“Last year alone VC pay across the sector rose by an average of £10,000,” said Brissenden.
“Since 2008 average pay for VCs has gone up by £83,000, a real term increase of 24.6 per cent.”
The strike will also mark the start of UCU members working to contract.
Brissenden asked students to give university staff their support during the action – and not go to university that day.
“I hope students will support us,” he said. “Stay away from university on Thursday and write to the VC to push for a speedy resolution to the dispute.
“The University is keen to stress that this is a national dispute and it does not endorse the strike action” – Bournemouth University
“This is not a situation of our making and not one we can resolve on our own. The sooner we can get everybody back to negotiating, the sooner we can get back to doing what we love doing.”
However, the students’ union has not given support to the strike.
Students’ Union of Bournemouth University (SUBU) Vice-President for Communications Annie Hall said, “Whilst SUBU believes that lecturers and other staff in our University should be properly supported and remunerated, and support the rights of all staff to challenge unfair practices, including challenging pay and conditions which they deem to be unfair, we also have concerns where industrial action impacts students.
“We support the UCU on their long term aims of creating a fair working environment, however as a Students’ Union we feel that we cannot actively support this current industrial action due to the short-term negative consequences for students.”
The university released a statement saying, “We expect that the majority of activities and services will remain unaffected by this strike and students are advised that lectures will continue as normal unless told otherwise by individual academics or communications in the schools.
“The University is keen to stress that this is a national dispute and it does not endorse the strike action and has asked academic staff to ensure that any potential effects on students are minimised.”