Classes axed as university staff walk out in pay row

Witney Gazette: City of Oxford College, formerly Oxford and Cherwell Valley College, staff go on strike City of Oxford College, formerly Oxford and Cherwell Valley College, staff go on strike

STUDENTS at colleges were affected by strike action as staff walked out in a dispute with their employers over pay.

Classes were cancelled at colleges and universities yesterday as members of the University Colleges Union (UCU), Unison and Unite walked out for the second time in just over a month.

Staff, from lecturers to cleaners, first took action on October 31 and many took to the picket lines again.

The strike included members at the University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes and, for the first time, college staff, including those at Activate Learning colleges, formerly Oxford and Cherwell Valley College.

College staff went on strike at City of Oxford College in Oxpens Road and Blackbird Leys, as well as the two sites at Banbury and Bicester College.

Julia Henderson, spokeswoman for UCU at Activate Learning, said about 200 staff at the colleges in Oxford, Bicester and Banbury were union members.

She said: “There will inevitably be some classes cancelled across the college.

“Nobody wants to go on strike and we don’t want to disrupt students’ learning.

“Our pay is falling behind and there are problems about how people will manage in a place like Oxford.

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“It is with great reluctance that we do this, but it is to try to get the employers to listen so that we can be the best for our students.”

The unions have rejected a one per cent pay rise from employer UCEA, saying that in the last five years staff have had a 13 per cent cut to their wages.

Many of those on strike raised concerns about how this affected the ability of people to live in the city due to high living costs.

There were picket lines across the city, including at City of Oxford College in Oxpens Road and outside the University of Oxford building in Wellington Square.

Terry Hoad, president of UCU at Oxford University, said: “Everybody is important in this. The university does not just run on lecturers. We need everyone else to help it run.”

Unison branch secretary Alan Jenkins said: “Oxford is a very expensive place to live and work. Our members are on wages between £14,000 to about £25,000, with the majority on about £17-19,000.”

Nikki Luke, who works in the Department of Education at the University of Oxford, said: “We are not just striking for academic staff. There are a whole range of support staff who also support the students who deserve better wages than a one per cent offer.”

Jane McNicholl, lecturer in science education, said: “There has been a sharp decrease in my pay packet since 2008 in real terms.”

Oxford Brookes’ human resources director Bob Price said: “This latest strike action follows the continued rejection by the unions of the final pay offer made by the universities’ national employers’ organisation.

“The university is hopeful of a resolution to the national negotiations in as short a time as possible.”

University of Oxford spokesman Stuart Gillespie said: “The university respects the right of individuals to take lawful industrial action. Contingency plans were in place to minimise disruption.”

To hear comments from the strike, visit http: //ow.ly/rpeC8

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