Durham Uni staff may strike in September following end of marking boycott

The strikes come after the UCU rejected the offer of a five per cent pay award


Staff at Durham University are set to strike in September following the end of their marking and assessment boycott.

The UCU announced yesterday that 136 Universities across the UK, including Durham University, will strike for five consecutive days between September 25 and September 29.

The UCU also warn that staff will continue to partake in industrial action by working to rule, refusing voluntary work, and not rescheduling lectures and tutorials affected by strikes.

The new strikes come after the marking and assessment boycott (MAB), which began on April 20th, was officially withdrawn yesterday with immediate effect.

The UCU cite poor pay, high workloads, and gig-economy contracts as the reason for the dispute.

Durham University pro vice-chancellor, Tony Fawcett, said in an email to students sent out today that he will write to them on September 12 to outline the timescales around the return of their marks.

An analysis of the university sector, undertaken by the UCU, shows that the sector generated the highest profit ever last year, but the proportion of income going to staff fell to a record low. UCU members therefore recently voted against the 5 per cent pay award offered to them by the employer body.

Jo Grady, general secretary for the UCU said: “‘We are left with no option but to strike during the start of term because our members refuse to stand by while pay is eroded and staff are shunted onto gig-economy contracts.

“It is shameful that vice-chancellors still refuse to settle the dispute despite a year of unprecedented disruption, and have instead imposed a pay award that staff overwhelmingly rejected. Universities are richer than ever, generating tens of billions of pounds in income and hoarding billions more in cash deposits. But they won’t give staff their fair share, a pay award of five per cent is a huge real-terms pay cut and is substantially lower than school teachers received.

“We have sought to settle this dispute at every opportunity, including agreeing to a joint review of sector finances, but we are faced with employers that want to see staff and students suffer. We desperately hope vice-chancellors realise we are going nowhere without a fair settlement and make us a realistic offer. If they do not, campuses will be marred by picket lines during fresher’s week, and we will launch a new strike ballot allowing us to take action well into 2024.”

A statement on the Durham University website reads: “There is no doubt that the MAB has been very challenging for many of our students and many members of staff (whether taking action or not). Confirmation that the MAB is to end with immediate effect is most welcome news for our whole community.

“It is now the expectation that any colleague participating in the MAB will resume all marking and assessment activity and prioritise the completion of any outstanding marking. We are mindful of workload implications for colleagues and guidance on priorities and timelines will be issued very soon.”

Featured image via @UCU on Twitter

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