Sunderland lecturers skip lessons as strike begins

Striking Sunderland University lecturers who are members of the University & College Union picketing at St. Peters campus this morning.

Striking Sunderland University lecturers who are members of the University & College Union picketing at St. Peters campus this morning.

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STRIKING lecturers armed with placards took to the streets of Sunderland today.

The Sunderland University academics joined thousands across the country taking industrial action over issues including pensions, pay and job security.

Wearside members of the University and College Union (UCU) gathered at three points in the city this morning and expected for a day on the picket lines.

The striking lecturers held their protests outside the university’s Forster Building in Chester Road, the new Science Complex and at St Peter’s Campus, and the UCU, which has 370 members in Sunderland, was expecting a good turnout.

The union called for the national strike in objection to a 0.4 per cent pay increase and lack of agreement over job security.

A further ballot on changes to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme will see a second day of industrial action on a date to be set.

As well as joining in today’s strike, research and teaching staff at Durham University joined a national strike earlier this week over changes to the University Superannuation Scheme pension arrangements, where disputes centred on attempts to raise the retirement age, increase contributions and end the final salary element of the scheme for new recruits.

Steve Storey, chairman of Sunderland University’s UCU branch, said proposed changes to pensions would mean lecturers working longer, paying more and getting less.

He said: “The bigger part of the picture is the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, which also covers further education teachers and teachers in schools, and they are yet to vote on industrial action.”

Although admitting the action would disrupt students’ education, Mr Storey said lecturers and students had stood side-by-side in previous protests over tuition fees and public sector cuts and the students supported them now.

A spokesman for the University of Sunderland said it would do everything possible to minimise the disruption to students through the lecturers’ strike.