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University staff and NHS physiotherapists to strike

File photo dated 22/01/21 of George Eustice, (then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (right) speaking to Environment Agency staff in Northwich, Cheshire, as staff at the Environment Agency will be the latest group of workers to strike when they walk out on Wednesday in a dispute over pay.
Alan Jones and Eleanor Busby, PA

University staff and NHS physiotherapists will strike on Thursday in the outbreak of industrial unrest continuing to sweep the country.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) and Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) will mount picket lines outside universities and hospitals in disputes over pay, working conditions and pensions.

The CSP accused the Government of being “intransigent” in refusing to discuss pay for the current financial year, which has sparked walkouts across the NHS in recent months.

Up to 4,500 members of the CSP will strike at 33 trusts in England, with action planned for Wales suspended after the Welsh government made an improved offer.

The CSP said that apart from one 45-minute meeting last month, the Westminster government has refused to discuss the pay dispute.

The Scottish government also made an improved offer that CSP members accepted.

Claire Sullivan, director of employment relations at the CSP, said: “Our members are sick and tired of hearing the UK Government claim they are open to talks with the health unions when they have not lifted a finger to avert strikes in England.

“They have made no attempt to address this year's pay dispute, with the only meeting in early January focusing on next year instead – there was no meaningful discussion of the central issue causing this dispute.

“This is outrageous at a time when the NHS is facing the direst of workforce crises with damaging consequences for both staff and their patients.'

“It's inexplicable they won't even discuss the current dispute, despite seeing in Scotland and Wales what can be achieved through negotiation.”

Physiotherapists will continue to provide emergency life-saving care including covering intensive care and respiratory on-call services.

Around 70,000 members of the UCU will strike across 150 universities on Thursday, which threatens disruption to lectures and seminars.

Further strikes are due to take place on Friday after the union rejected a pay offer from employers, with 15 more days of walkouts planned for February and March.

The UCU expects 2.5 million students to be affected by its strike action over the next two months but the National Union of Students (NUS) has backed staff taking part in walkouts.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), representing 144 employers, said it has made a “full and final pay offer” of between 5% and 8%.

This offer has been described as the highest uplift in nearly 20 years.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady has described the 5% pay offer for many university staff as a “huge real-terms pay cut” that would leave members “worse off”.

She said: “We are striking for 48 hours this week and will take escalating action until we get a fair deal.

“University bosses hold over £40bn in reserves, but they would rather hoard that money than use just a fraction of it to settle our dispute and bring an end to the unprecedented strike action that is hitting universities.

“Whilst they earn up to £714k a year, tens of thousands of our members are on insecure contracts, some as short as six weeks, and have seen their pay held down for over a decade.

“We have repeatedly asked bosses to explain why they refuse to deal with the issues that blight higher education. Yet they refuse to publicly justify their position. We know the bosses are in hiding because their position is indefensible.”

NUS vice-president for higher education Chloe Field said: “The vice-chancellors in charge of our universities would rather see students face disruption on a scale we have never seen before than pay staff what they are worth.

“Every day of teaching we lose is completely the fault of vice-chancellors who refuse to pay their staff properly.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “It is regrettable some union members are taking further industrial action at a time when the NHS is already under pressure.

“The Health and Social Care Secretary has had constructive meetings with unions, including the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, and has been clear he wants to continue to discuss what is fair and affordable as part of the 2023/24 pay process.”


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