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University employers face first strike by three unions at same time
“This time we have no choice” – Unison

The staff of the University of Liverpool went on strike today alongside other universities throughout Merseyside. The campaign has also impacted over 21 other cities throughout the country.

Many lectures were cancelled, and main campus buildings marked clearly as picket lines. The protest over unfair pay began on campus, moving on to University Square and other main university sites such as John Moores department buildings. It finished with a march through the town centre to St. George’s Hall, disrupting traffic along the way.

“Unions will start talking to each other, start fighting.”

Staff and workers were joined by students supporting the strike, and people of all ages in the crowd. There were banners representing UoL, John Moores University and Liverpool Hope University alongside union placards.

Protesters brandished rattles and made as much noise as possible, shouting chants such as ‘get the cable cutters’ (referencing Vince Cable), and the familiar mantra against cuts to higher education: ‘no ifs, no buts, no education cuts.’

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UCU, Unison and Unite trade unions announced in mid-October that their members in higher education would strike if a dispute over pay is not resolved by the proposed date.

UNISON’s head of higher education said previous to the protest: “Will students and parents be prepared to pay the current university fees for a third rate service at Liverpool University in the future?

“UNISON never takes industrial action lightly – but this time we have no choice.”

Nationally staff had a 1% pay rise this year, a pay cut of 13% in real terms since October 2008. This coincides with a rise in pay and benefits for university leaders, who saw their package rise by 2.62% in 2011-12, £219,681 on average, while higher education staff received an average of £150. More than 4,000 staff in Higher Education are currently paid below the living wage.

UCU head of higher education, Michael MacNeil, said: “Staff have suffered year-on-year cuts in the value of their pay. Quite simply, enough is enough. We urge the employers to reflect on the fact that they are about to face their first ever strike by three unions at the same time and come to the negotiating table to resolve this dispute.”

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Unions have shown support for students who have refused to cross the picket line. The UNISON General Secretary who was at university picket lines in London today said that “Today’s action shows that universities rely on the dedication, flexibility and goodwill of our members.

“Our members in higher education deserve a better standard of living for their hard work and the contribution they make to the success of UK universities.”

Union members are also being called to take action by ‘working to contract’ tomorrow 1 November, which is a step below striking but without broaching contracts.