Scores of UCLan staff take to picket lines in Preston in dispute over pay and conditions
Staff at the University of Central Lancashire took to the picket line today for the first of three days of strike action over pay and working conditions.
And feelings were running so high that university bosses were warned the action could escalate in the New Year if the dispute is not settled.
UCLan staff were out in force despite the wet weather, joining University and College Union (UCU) members from 58 universities in a nationwide protest against what they claim has been a 20 per cent fall in pay over 12 years of below inflation rises.
Martyn Moss, UCU North West Regional Official, said the strike was over "low pay, insecure contracts, inequality and unbearably high workloads that blight higher education."
And he added: "We have told vice chancellors what they have to do resolve this dispute. But if employers remain intent on exploiting staff who have kept this sector afloat during a pandemic then they will see further industrial action in the spring term."
The staff will remain on the picket line outside main buildings on the city centre campus tomorrow and Friday in pursuit of a settlement. They accuse university chiefs of refusing to address falling pay, worsening working conditions and, in some universities, cuts to pensions.
Research by the National Union of Students shows 73 per cent of students support university staff taking strike action.
The UCU says almost 90,000 academic and academic-related staff are employed on insecure contracts.
The gender pay gap in UK universities sits at 15 per cent, whilst the disability pay gap is 9 per cent and the race pay gap is 17 per cent. Staff are also experiencing a crisis of work-related stress with over half showing probable signs of depression.
UCU is demanding a £2,500 pay increase for all staff, as well as action to tackle unmanageable workloads, pay inequality and insecure contracts that blight the sector.
The union's 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.
"We are grateful to all the students who are supporting staff taking industrial action because they understand that staff working conditions are student learning conditions.
"Vice-chancellors now need to concentrate on asking themselves why strikes have become an annual occurrence and seek to resolve this dispute in order to avoid more needless disruption to learning.
"If they continue to ignore the modest demands of staff then we will be forced to take further industrial action in the new year, which even more branches will join."