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Belfast's students backing university staff as 14 days of strikes begin over pay and pensions

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Students came out in support of university staff yesterday in Belfast on the first day of strike action

Students came out in support of university staff yesterday in Belfast on the first day of strike action

Students came out in support of university staff yesterday in Belfast on the first day of strike action

Students joined forces with university staff in Belfast yesterday as staff started 14 days of strike action.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) from Queen's University, Belfast, Ulster University and the Open University were among those calling for action yesterday on pay and pensions.

A statement from the UCU at Queen's said the strike was "a unique opportunity to fight against the marketisation of our universities and to remind management that universities are for teaching and producing knowledge, not for profit-making".

Disruptions to some classes at Queen's and Ulster University are expected, and strikes are also taking place in 74 other universities across the UK.

Speaking in support of university staff outside Queen's yesterday was Robert Murtagh, president of the National Union of Students in Northern Ireland (NUS-USI).

"I was talking to the media this morning and there are attempts to try and create gulfs between staff and students," he said. "But let's be very clear about this. The representatives of students across Northern Ireland, we stand with you in this fight, we stand in solidarity with you and always have and we always will."

Mr Murtagh said issues of pay, pensions and workloads for staff also had a direct impact on students.

"We know that you guys can't give the time that you want to your students because of the system," he added.

"Because we have moved and over the last number of years we have seen increased marketisation of our institutions, of our institutions not existing to educate or to get research, to be that social good.

"But to be a business, to make profit, to make money, and what we have seen those at the top continue to see their pay go up and up."

The strike action will continue tomorrow and next week from Monday, February 24 to Wednesday, February 26. Further dates will be Monday, March 2 to Thursday, March 5, and the entire week beginning March 9.

The Queen's University pro vice-chancellor, Professor David Jones, issued an email to students to say the university would remain open during the strike action.

He said the right of staff to take industrial action would be respected, but it remained a national issue which the university could not solve alone.

Many students, he added, would not be affected but efforts would be made to ensure they were not assessed on material missed during cancelled lectures.

Belfast Telegraph