1. ITV Report

University and College lecturers in Cambridge, Norwich, Colchester & Milton Keynes go on strike

Staff at the University of Cambridge, the Open University in Milton Keynes and University of East Anglia in Norwich are beginning a series of walkouts today in disputes over pay and pensions.

The strike action will last for eight days. Sixty UK universities are involved with members of the University Colleges Union (UCU).

Pickets at UEA in Norwich Credit: ITV Anglia

UCU said it feared that universities had learnt nothing from last year's dispute when university campuses were brought to a standstill by unprecedented levels of strike action.

We hope students will continue to put pressure on university vice-chancellors to get their representatives back round the negotiating table for serious talks with the union."

– Sandra Cortijo, UCU Cambridge

As well as eight days of protest, union members will begin "action short of a strike".

It involves things like working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

“Strike action is a last resort, but universities' refusal to deal with absolutely key issues have left us with no alternative. It is staggering and insulting that universities have not done more to work with us to try to find a way to resolves these disputes."

– Sandra Cortijo, UCU Cambridge branch secretary
Pickets at UEA in Norwich Credit: ITV Anglia

UCU members are taking action on pay and pensions at:

  • University of Cambridge
  • The Open University, Milton Keynes
  • The University of Essex, Colchester

UCU members are taking action on pensions only at

  • University of East Anglia, Norwich

The UCU said staff had reached "breaking point" over a number of issues, including workloads, real-terms cuts in pay, a 15% gender pay gap and changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which the union says will leave members paying in more and receiving less in retirement.

The University and Colleges say they are committed to ensuring staff have access to one of the best pension schemes in the country.

They also say they are working hard to ensure that students do not miss out or are disadvantaged by the strikes

We will do all we can to ensure the strike does not impact badly on students and staff. The action and claims of the UCU that employers are forcing them into this cannot go unchallenged. The union is insisting that employers should pay the full cost of an increase in pension contributions and had not been prepared to compromise. It has been a complete red line for them and has made negotiating impossible. Employers are prepared to invest in our people, but unaffordable sums of money would have to be diverted from other budgets unless individual members make a fair contribution. This could include cuts to courses and larger class sizes, which would have a damaging impact on students"

– Carol Costello, spokesperson for the employers' side