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University of Kent staff to go on strike at Canterbury and Medway campuses over pay and conditions dispute

University lecturers are set to go on strike for eight days over a dispute about pay and conditions.

Thousands of students at the University of Kent will be affected by the action on both its campuses in Medway and Canterbury.

Staff on strike at University of Kent in February 2018
Staff on strike at University of Kent in February 2018

The strikes have been called by the University and College Union (UCU) with members walking out at 60 universities across the UK on November 25.

University chiefs say students' education is their "utmost priority" and they are working on plans to reduce the impact on their studies during the strikes.

Union bosses claim institutions - including Kent - have failed to meet demands as workers had suffered a wage drop in real terms of up to 17% during the past decade.

It is estimated workers have been left £12,000-a-year worse off.

The UCU is protesting against pay, equality, casual working arrangements and workloads.

The University of Kent (20954372)
The University of Kent (20954372)

Some 850 members at the university - ranging from lecturers and teachers to support staff working in computing, information services and administration - were asked to take part in the vote about whether to take action.

A ballot earlier this month saw 75% of those who voted backing the strikes - which will run from November 25 to December 4.

More than a million students nationwide will be hit by disrupted lectures, classes, assessment deadlines and exams.

It follows previous action in February and March last year when dozens of staff in Chatham and Canterbury joined the picket line.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "Strike action is a last resort, but staff have made it quite clear that enough is enough and universities can be in no doubt about the strength of feeling.

Strikes will take place at the Medway campus. Picture: Sylvia Meade
Strikes will take place at the Medway campus. Picture: Sylvia Meade

"The University of Kent will be hit with strikes later this month unless universities start talking to us seriously about how they are going to deal with declining pay and conditions.

"Any general election candidate would be over the moon with a result along the lines of what we achieved last week. Universities can be in no doubt about the strength of feeling on these issues and we will be consulting branches whose desire to strike was frustrated by anti-union laws about reballoting."

It is not yet clear how much disruption will be caused by the strikes.

University of Kent spokesman Gary Hughes said: "While the university recognises the strength of feeling and the frustrations many of our staff feel about pay and conditions, the education of our students is our utmost priority.

"At this stage it is not possible to know how many UCU members at Kent will choose to join the period of national industrial action and how our students might be directly affected.

University bosses say students' education is their "utmost priority"
University bosses say students' education is their "utmost priority"

"We have assured our students we will do everything we can to mitigate any impact on their studies and we will continue to do all we can in our discussions with UCU and others to find a way forward.

"We have also reminded them that university staff are here to support them and that we will keep them informed of developments.

"In the meantime, we have advised them to continue to attend and engage with all timetabled events including lectures, seminars, assessments and examinations."

Writing to branch members after the announcement, UCU's co-ordinators at the University of Kent reassured members: "We have your back. We are strong as a branch and we are resolved to win."

They added members would be able to seek compensation for lost income during industrial action.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner supported the strikes last week but called on universities and unions to get on with urgent talks to find a solution to the disputes.

News from our universities, local primary and secondary schools including Ofsted inspections and league tables can be found here.

Read more: All the latest news from Medway

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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