1. ITV Report

Thousands of university staff launch eight-day strike over pay and pensions

Staff and students from the University of Sussex form a picket line Credit: ITV Meridian

Thousands of university staff across the south are launching an eight-day strike today in disputes over pay, conditions and pensions.

Thousands of members of the University and College Union at 60 UK universities - including Reading, Oxford, Sussex, Kent,Brighton, Bournemouth and Southampton, will walk out, disrupting lectures for over a million students in the run up to the Christmas break.

Picket lines will be mounted at campuses across the country, protests will be held and other forms of industrial action will be launched including not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

Professor Chris Chatwin is President of the local Sussex branch of the University and College Union.

Those going on strike include lecturers, student support services staff, admissions tutors, librarians, technicians and administrators.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady warned that a second wave of strikes could be held in the new year if the deadlocked disputes remain unresolved. University leaders say they will try to lessen the impact of the action and insist they want to work with the union to reach an agreement.

But 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.

University of Sussex student Connor Moylett joined the picket line in support of staff on strike.

"University staff are at the heart of the sector's teaching and research success and CUC fully supports this being recognised and reflected through their employment packages.

"Pensions in USS are excellent, but the scheme has to remain affordable in order for institutions to balance their investment in people with the wider university environment. Against a backdrop of unprecedented uncertainty and financial pressure, the role of university boards and councils has to be to ensure the long-term sustainability of their institutions, and therefore they have to balance the investment they want to make in people against all the other calls on their resources."

– Chris Sayers, chairman of the Committee of University Chairs
Staff say pensions is one of the reasons for the walkout Credit: ITV Meridian

"Fair pay, secure contracts, reasonable workloads and decent, affordable pensions should come as standard for all those working in education, including in our universities. Thousands are on strike today because that simply isn't the case in the increasingly marketised system that the Tories have created.

"Labour will end the failed free market experiment in education and instead put staff and students first. It is time for the employers to put their students first and avoid any further disruption by bringing a reasonable offer back to the negotiating table."

– Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner