Sunderland University and college academics go on strike over pay

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Sunderland University lecturers struck for two hours yesterday in a dispute over pay.

Yesterday’s action was the first of three walkouts planned to take place between January 23 and February 10, where the University and College Union (UCU) are protesting ‘over a 13% drop in pay,’ they say.

Unlike the two previous one-day strikes in November and December last year, yesterday’s action lasted just two hours – from 11am until 1pm.

Doctor Steve Cannon, programme leader for Film and Media at Sunderland University, said: “A two-hour walkout is keeping the pot boiling without substantial loses.

“Our leaders, nationally, are aware that if you keep one-day strikes people get fined on a kind of punitive basis – they take a one-fifth of their pay, rather than one-seventh – even though people do lots of work on the weekends. Other institutions took a different tag.

“The real question is why, with £1.5billion of surplus washing around in the system – the money is there – why they are’t prepared to make even a reasonable increase on the one per cent, which, as you say, is part of an ongoing substantial cut in our members living standards.”

Veronika Veselinova, 21, third-year sports journalism student at Sunderland University, was taking an exam on the same day of the action, which was interrupted because of it.

She said: “The exam was supposed to start at 10am and finish at about 14.15pm. Instead of that, though, we started at 8.30am and had to arrive there at something like 8.15am. Then instead of having half an hour break, we had a two-hour one.

“But I support them as they are fighting for their rights. They have been helpful enough so they deserve to get what they want.”

The next walkout will take place on January 28 from 2pm-4pm.

However, UCU state that if they cannot reach an agreement with the employers, they will to consider escalating action after Easter, including a refusal to mark students work.

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