Academic staff at the University of Chester will be on strike tomorrow (Friday, June 24) as part of a nationwide wave of action in a row over pay and conditions.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are unhappy at the 1.1% pay offer by national employers, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association.

The walk-out, involving lecturers and researchers, will impact on centres including Chester and Warrington.

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Striking staff will be on picket lines outside the Exton Park entrance to the university’s Parkgate Road campus from 8.30am.

The University of Chester's Parkgate Road campus

A two-day national strike took place in May.

This time UCU is organising strikes at individual institutions to cause disruption to local events, which at Chester will include an open day for certain courses and exam board meetings.

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Since May 25 staff have also been working to contract which means they are refusing to work overtime, set additional work or undertake voluntary duties like covering time-tabled classes for absent colleagues.

The UCU says universities can afford to pay more than 1.1% and the offer did little to address the ‘real-terms pay cut’ of 14.5% that members had experienced since 2009.

Union leaders argue the squeeze on staff salaries comes despite vice-chancellors enjoying a 6.1% pay hike. The University of Chester recently revealed its vice chancellor Professor Tim Wheeler received an annual salary of £255,000 in the last financial year.

University of Chester Vice-Chancellor Tim Wheeler
University of Chester Vice-Chancellor Tim Wheeler

The union is also calling on universities to commit to closing the gender pay gap and reducing the proportion of staff on casual and zero-hours contracts. On average, female academics are paid £6,103 less a year than their male counterparts, while 49% of university teachers are on insecure contracts.

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UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: “Our strike action is a result of the employers’ failure to deal with the declining real-terms pay of university staff, or tackle the problems of growing numbers of zero-hours contracts and the persistent gender pay gap.

“Nobody wants to be out on strike, but we have been left with no alternative. We hope the employers will finally come back to us with a proper pay offer.”

Since 2010, the UCU claims the amount spent on staff by universities as a percentage of total income has dropped by 3% while total of cash reserves have ‘rocketed’ by 72% to stand at over £21bn.

More details on strike action across the country is available via the Twitter hashtag #FairpayinHE.

A spokesman for the University of Chester said: “The University of Chester will be open for business as usual during tomorrow’s proposed strike (Friday, June 24) and every effort will be made by the university management to minimise any disruption to its students."