Sunderland and Durham University staff in two-day walk out

University of Sunderland's St Peter's Campus.
University of Sunderland's St Peter's Campus.
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Staff at Sunderland and Durham universities will walk out tomorrow as part of a two-day national pay strike.

But university chiefs say they have prepared for the action and have promised to keep disruption to a minimum.

The university is committed to offering the best possible student experience and we have plans in place to ensure any disruption is kept to a minimum.

University of Sunderland spokeswoman

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside Universities will take part in tomorrow’s action and will also begin working to contract, which means they will refuse to work overtime, set additional work, or undertake any voluntary duties such as covering classes for absent colleagues.

The dispute has arisen after a pay offer of 1.1% from the employer body, the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA), which the union described as ‘an insult’.

The union says universities could afford to pay more and that the latest offer does little to address a real term pay cut of 14.5% that members have suffered since 2009 while pay and benefits for university leaders increased, on average, by 5.1% in 2014/15.

Around two thirds (65.4%) of members who voted backed strike action and over three quarters (77.3%) voted for action short of a strike.

Regional Official Iain Owens said: “A 1.1% pay offer is particularly insulting when we know vice-chancellors have just had over five per cent.

“University staff can no longer put up with the continued squeeze on their income. After six years of pay cuts and constant demands to do more for less, staff have said enough is enough.

“Industrial action which impacts on students is never taken lightly, but members feel that they have been left with no alternative. It’s time for universities to invest properly in teachers, researchers and administrators. The employers need to come back with a better offer which reflects the hard work of staff.”

A University of Sunderland spokeswoman said: “The university is committed to offering the best possible student experience and we have plans in place to ensure any disruption is kept to a minimum. There is no intention to close any part of the University as a result of this national industrial action.

“We hope the dispute will be resolved quickly, in the meantime we will continue to keep students and staff updated.”

A Durham University spokesman said examinations that were due to take place on the two days of strike action would proceed as normal and all preparations would be completed before the start of the industrial action.

Vice-chancellor Prof Stuart Corbridge said: “While we respect the right of our staff to take part in legal industrial action, we hope the ongoing discussions will result in a resolution to the dispute.

“We will be working with staff to minimise the impact on our students as much as possible at this important time in their academic career, and we will be ensuring students are kept informed.”