Northern Ireland news

Staff at Queen's and Ulster University start five-day strike

On the picket line during a recent strike at Queen's University Belfast. Picture by HUgh Russell
Mairead Holland

STAFF at Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University are to begin five consecutive days of strike action today.

The strike is part of a UK-wide dispute over pension cuts and what union members describe as "deteriorating pay and conditions".

The action is being taken by University and College Union (UCU) members, with more than 50,000 staff at 67 universities striking over the next two weeks.

This is the third round of strike action of the academic year. Staff at both universities recently took 10 days of action over three weeks and previously went on strike for three days in December 2021.

A statement from the UCU said that last month university employers forced through pension cuts, which will see 35 per cent slashed from a typical member's guaranteed retirement income.

It also estimates staff pay is down by 25.5 per cent in real terms since 2009.

Among the union demands is an end to race, gender and disability pay injustice, the elimination of zero-hours contracts, action to tackle unmanageable workloads and a £2.5k pay rise for all employees.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘Vice chancellors across the UK have the power to end these disputes. The money is there to pay staff properly, tackle punishing working conditions and reverse pension cuts that will devastate retirement incomes.

"Instead, university bosses are choosing to sit on reserves worth tens of billions of pounds and make their own staff suffer. That’s why we are out on picket lines yet again.

"By continuing to ignore the longstanding and serious concerns of staff, vice chancellors are not only pushing their own workforce to breaking point, but also doing serious harm to the future of higher education and preventing it from being the best it can be."

A spokesperson for Queen's said it appreciated that the decision to engage in industrial action was not taken lightly and that staff "do not wish to disrupt the education of our students, as they are our first priority".

"This is primarily a national dispute that the university cannot resolve unilaterally. However, there are some issues such as casualisation that the university continues to work constructively with local UCU representatives on," they added.

"Queen’s will continue to use its influence to shape and inform the national debate and remains committed to working in partnership with all trade unions on a range of issues at a local level."

Ulster University was contacted for comment.

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