Northern Ireland news

Strikes start at north's universities

STAFF at universities have walked out as the sector's longest-running strike action in Britain and Northern Ireland got under way.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) have taken to the picket line over 14 days amid two rows - one concerning pensions and another over pay and working conditions.

It is the second wave of strikes in the disputes after UCU members took part in eight days of action before Christmas.

Strikes are taking place at more than 70 universities.

There will be some disruption to classes and lectures at both Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University (UU).

Open University staff in the north are also taking industrial action.

UU deputy vice-chancellor Prof Paul Bartholomew said the university would attempt to minimise any potential disruption on its four campuses.

Queen's said the impact of the action would vary across the university and be very limited in some areas.

The NUS-USI student body said it supported the action.

"I understand the concerns of students who are now facing further disruption to their studies, close to final exams," said president Robert Murtagh.

"But we know that lecturers and support staff would much rather be spending their time educating students. They have been forced into this position by the continued unwillingness of universities to deal with problems which have been building for over a decade. Our education system is broken, and staff and students are paying the price."

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), representing the universities in the pay dispute, said it was deeply disappointed.

"UCEA has offered UCU further informal talks and urges the union's leaders to reconsider pursuing damaging strike action at less than half of universities, damaging students, staff and their own members - who are yet to be consulted over the new positive proposals that are on the table," a spokesman said.

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Northern Ireland news