'You will face further disruption' warns union boss as five day university staff strike begins

There's even more incentive to socialise this freshers' week as university lecturers stage a five day strike, as David Harper reports

Monday marks the start of freshers' week, traditionally the time that first year students throw themselves head-first into university life.

But for many, this week consists of socialising, spending their student loan and strikes, as members of the University and College Union (UCU) are taking action in a long running dispute.

UCU members at 42 universities will now be striking for five consecutive days from Monday to Friday and those at a further 10 universities will be striking on at least one day next week. 

Already members took part in a marking boycott this summer, preventing many students from graduating.

The union says its members' pay has fallen behind inflation, and that universities have the money to increase salaries.

Some strikes have been called off after they came to an agreement, including those at the University of Aberdeen, the University of Bristol and the University of Sussex.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "We have seen many employers do the right thing and agree to stop punitive pay deductions and some have also agreed to return what has been taken.

"We are now urging other vice-chancellors to follow their lead and are calling off strike action at dozens of universities.

"This will also allow our members to concentrate on winning the re-ballot and getting the pay and conditions they deserve. 

"Renewing our mandate and keeping the pressure on is the way we will win this dispute, but the strike action due to go ahead next week stands as a reminder to all employers that if you behave egregiously, you will face further disruption."

Law and politics student at the University of Glasgow, Jeevan Farthing. Credit: ITV News

Jeevan Farthing, a Law and politics student at the University of Glasgow, said: " Strikes have been part of my university experience since I started in first year so in some ways I'm used to them.

"So I'm not surprised to see more strikes but I still remain supportive of them. It is disrupting my education but its bigger than my education.

"Higher education as a whole is in crisis, the model in which staff are have to work under simply is not sustainable and it will impact future generations of students if its not addressed."

The Association of Colleges has made a recommendation £200 million of extra government funding, announced in July, should be used to offer a 6.5% pay award where they are able to do so.

The UCU has also highlighted that this is just a recommendation and not binding, they say there should be a national bargaining arrangement.

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