UNIVERSITY staff were united when three unions took to the picket lines in Sunderland and Durham.
For the first time, members of Unite, Unison and University College Union (UCU) came together to take co-ordinated strike action across the country in a row over pay.
At Sunderland it is thought up to 500 members of the university’s staff took part in the walk-out, with pickets at entrances to every building across the city.
Striking workers also picketed at entrances to some of the many Durham University buildings.
Unions, which represent a range of workers including, lecturers, researchers, technicians, support staff, cleaners and skilled staff, say they are angry at the one per cent pay offer and claim university staff have faced a real-terms pay cut of 13 per cent since 2008.
UCU regional support official, Jon Bryan, said: “Staff at the University of Sunderland are angry they’ve had to endure massive pay cuts in recent years, and this year’s miserly 1 per cent pay offer at a time of rising bills and increased pension contributions was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“Staff love their jobs, but their goodwill cannot continue to be taken for granted.”
Luise Ruddick, women’s officer for the University of Sunderland’s Unison branch, said it has got to the point where people cannot afford to accept the situation any more.
The finance officer said: “Most people love working here and we want to stay. We just want to be paid fairly for the hard work that we do.”
Iain Strachan, its branch chairman of Unison, said: “Some of our lowest paid members have had less than £20 a year rise.”
David Byrne, president of the Durham branch of the UCU, was outside the lecture rooms in New Elvet from 8am.
“With so many premises, it’s hard to cover Durham University,” he said. “But support for the strike appears strong.
“Very few people have crossed us this morning.”
Mr Byrne said: “We have had a one per cent offer over the last three years when everyone knows inflation is three times that.
“There is a surplus in the sector of £1billion, so they could afford to make us a fair offer. This has been happening at a time when senior managers have had rises of 10 or more per cent.”
Mr Byrne said it is a fallacy to suggest university workers get long holidays as most have research and other work to do outside of term time.
A spokeswoman for the University of Sunderland said they remained open during the day of action.
She said: “We have been working hard for some time to ensure there was as little disruption as possible.
“That work has gone well. We have kept our staff and students up-to-date with developments.”