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PRESS RELEASE – 3 December set for second strike day at University of Southampton

Union calls on Southampton University chief to donate strikers’ wages to poorest students and to use influence to help resolve nationwide pay row

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the University of Southampton will join a nationwide strike on Tuesday 3 December in a row over pay.

The national pay dispute between staff and universities is starting to become fractious at a local level. UCU members at the University of Southampton said today (Wednesday) that they are unhappy the institution is refusing to donate pay docked from striking staff into the student hardship fund, as other universities are doing.

The local union also said it is disappointed vice-chancellor Don Nutbeam is refusing to use his influence, as a board member with the employers’ representatives UCEA, to try and bring about a swift resolution to the dispute.

The three campus unions – UCU, Unison and Unite – took strike action on Thursday 31 October and have confirmed that their members will walk out again across the UK in three weeks’ time, and be joined by Scottish education union the EIS, unless the dispute over pay is resolved.

Members of the University and College have been working to contracts since Friday 1 November as part of the dispute. On Monday UCU wrote to UCEA and asked for dates for talks aimed at resolving the dispute.

Union members are angry at a 1% pay offer, which has seen their pay fall in real-terms by 13% since 2008. The squeeze on staff pay comes at a time when pay and benefits for university leaders increased, on average, by more than £5,000 in 2011-12, with the average pay and pensions package for vice-chancellors hitting almost £250,000. More on that here

Eric Silverman, president of the UCU Southampton branch, said: “Staff at Southampton do not want to be taking strike action. They want to see a swift resolution to this dispute and no further disruption to students’ studies. We are disappointed that the university is not donating the money it saves by docking the pay of those who strike to the student hardship fund, as other universities are doing.

“The employers need to come back to the negotiating table with something less insulting than a 13% real-terms pay cut over the past five years. We would urge our vice-chancellor, Don Nutbeam, to use his considerable influence at a national level to help progress things along.”

The first day’s strike, on 31 October, left some campuses deserted. Around the country, lectures were cancelled, libraries shut and deliveries turned away. Services such as cleaning, catering and security were also affected.  

The cumulative operating surplus in the higher education sector is now over £1 billion and many higher education institutions have built up cash reserves. Overall staff costs in higher education, as a proportion of income, have fallen from 58% in 2001/02, to 55.5% in 2011/12.


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