University staff threaten graduation ceremonies over pay dispute
University and college staff have warned they may target open days and graduation ceremonies with strikes and also boycott the marking and setting of work in the autumn term as they step up their pay dispute with employers.
The University and College Union (UCU) launched its protest over a 1.1 per cent pay offer from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) with a two-day walk-out last week.
The escalated strike action was agreed at the union's annual congress in Liverpool.
UCU said universities could afford to pay more and the latest offer does little to address a pay cut in real terms of 14.5 percent that its members have suffered since 2009.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "Following members' decision to back escalating strike action, local branches have already come forward with strike dates timed to target open days and graduation ceremonies.
"The employers need to recognise that staff will no longer accept their pay being held down while a few at the top enjoy the rewards of increased money for universities. Nobody wants to take industrial action, but clearly enough is enough. We hope the employers will respond positively to members' decision to escalate their action and come back to us with a serious pay offer."
UCU members have already started working to contract, which has included no overtime, refusing to set additional work or undertake any voluntary duties like covering timetabled classes for absent colleagues.
The union has also called on external examiners to resign their positions on exam boards, a move which threatens to disrupt marking this summer when boards meet to discuss challenged marks.
External examiners are a crucial part of quality assurance in universities as each course needs an external examiner to ensure that an institution's assessment is fair and comparable with others.
A UCEA spokesman said: "Rather than ask their members to inflict damage on themselves, their students and their higher education institutions, we feel it is time for UCU to conduct a consultation that enables their members to consider all the elements of the full, fair and final offer that is on the table."
Feedback from some higher education institutions suggested there had been "no or low" disruption from the strike days held so far, according to the UCEA, who described the union's comments regarding external examiners as unfounded.