Education & Family

University lecturers threaten marking boycott in pay dispute

Image caption Lecturers are threatening to disrupt graduation ceremonies like these.

University lecturers are threatening a marking and work-setting boycott in the autumn term in an escalation of their dispute with employers over pay.

The University College Union has also pledged to disrupt open days and graduations if it is not settled.

The row, which led to a two-day walkout last week, is over a 1.1% pay offer, which the Universities and Colleges Employers Association say is "good".

However, union general secretary Sally Hunt says the offer is an "insult".

The employers group has argued that the offer is at, and even, beyond the "limit of affordability" for some higher education institutions.

But the UCU says its members have suffered a real-terms pay cut of 14% since 2009 and complains the squeeze on staff salaries has come as university leaders enjoyed hefty increases.

Ms Hunt is unhappy with the offer, especially in light of the 5% pay rise her union says that vice-chancellors have enjoyed.

UCU members rejected a 1% offer in a strike ballot in early May.

'Full and fair'

Ms Hunt said: "Following the decision to back escalating strike action, local branches have already come forward with strike dates timed to target open days and graduation ceremonies.

"The employers need to recognise that staff will no longer accept their pay being held down while a few at the top enjoy the rewards of increased money for universities. Nobody wants to take industrial action, but clearly enough is enough.

"We hope the employers will respond positively to members' decision to escalate their action and come back to us with a serious pay offer."

A spokesman for the university employers' association said the pay offer rose to 2.7% for about half of employees when progression was taken into account.

He added: "Higher education institutions were pleased that their students were not affected where examinations were taking place.

"Few academic staff actually voted to support this strike action and the institutions tell us that the majority of their staff understand the financial realities for their own workplaces.

"Rather than ask their members to inflict damage on themselves, their students and their HE institutions, we feel it is time for UCU to conduct a consultation that enables their members to consider all the elements of the full, fair and final offer that is on the table."

He argued the weighting of the offer meant the worst paid university staff will get a rise of more than 5%.

Talks on zero-hours contracts and on improving lower pay for female academics have also been offered, they added.

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