North East university staff to disrupt open days as they strike over pay and conditions

Durham University.

Durham University.

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Staff at North East universities will walk out during open days this week in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Workers at Northumbria and Newcastle universities will strike tomorrow, while staff at Durham are set to walk out on Saturday.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at all three institutions will walk out to coincide with open days taking place at the universities.

At Northumbria, striking staff will be outside the Sport Central and Sutherland buildings to welcome students and their parents as they arrive for the open day and explain more about the union’s fight for fair pay and conditions.

Over at Newcastle, staff will also lobby students and parents as they arrive for their open day at the St Thomas Street, Claremont Road and King’s Gate entrances to the university from 8am.

On Saturday at Durham, UCU members will be picketing entrances to the university’s science site on South Road and Stockton Road, as well as the two Elvet Riverside entrances from 9am.

The dispute has arisen following a pay offer of 1.1% from the universities’ employers, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association. UCU said universities can afford to pay more and the offer did little to address the real-terms pay cut of 14.5% that members have suffered since 2009.

The squeeze on staff salaries comes despite vice-chancellors enjoying a 6.1% pay hike, according to the UCU.

The union has also called for universities to commit to closing the gender pay gap and reducing the proportion of staff on casual and zero-hours contracts. On average, female academics are paid £6,103 less a year than their male counterparts, while 49% of university teachers are on insecure contracts, said the union.

UCU regional official for the north-east, Iain Owens said: "Our targeted strike action is the direct result of the employers’ failure to deal with the declining real-terms pay of university staff or tackle the problems of growing numbers of zero-hours contracts and the persistent gender pay gap.

"Nobody wants to take strike action, but our members have been left with no choice."

The nationwide strikes over pay began with two national strike days in May and now UCU members at separate institutions are striking to disrupt local events such as open days and graduation ceremonies.