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Universities face strike disruption

Source BBC News@

UCU strikersUniversities have warned that some classes could be cancelled and facilities closed

Universities across the UK face disruption from a one-day walkout by lecturers and support staff who say their pay has failed to keep up with rising living costs.

The University and College Union says it will affect 149 institutions, in a joint action with Unison and Unite.

The unions have rejected a pay offer of 1%, which they say represents a 13% pay cut in real terms since 2009.

University employers predict the strike will cause a "low level of impact".

But the unions say that universities will face the "most widespread disruption for years".

'Record surpluses'

Universities have been warning students there might be some cancellations of classes and that some facilities, such as libraries, could be closed.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the lecturers' University and College Union (UCU), accused universities of giving high salaries to the most senior staff while refusing to give the majority of staff rises to keep up with rising living costs.

She said: "Our employers had a combined surplus last year of more than £1.1bn yet were prepared to offer a pay rise which covered barely one-third of the increased cost of living."

There was a 35% turnout in the UCU strike ballot, with 62% voting in favour of strike action.

Unison's head of higher education, Jon Richards, accused university managements of "sitting on record surpluses, splashing out on senior management pay but refusing to give a decent wage to the staff who have made UK universities some of the best in the world".

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) says it is disappointed at the rejection of the pay offer.

A UCEA spokesman, speaking ahead of the strike, said that less than 5% of the higher education workforce had chosen to vote for strike action.

He said that "salary costs in most HE institutions will actually rise by around 3% this year".

The spokesman said that as well as the 1% increase many staff will also get incremental increases and merit awards.

"These pay increases will be seen as generous by many looking into the sector," he said.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "We are disappointed that the unions have decided in favour of industrial action. Students have the right to expect that their learning will not be disrupted by such action."

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