Staff at the University of Northampton are taking part in a two-day national strike today and tomorrow in a row over pay and gender equality.
Picket lines will be formed at the Avenue campus today and the Park campus on Thursday, from 7.45am on both days.
The dispute between the University College Union (UCU) has arisen following a pay offer of 1.1 per cent from the employer body, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA).
A spokesman for UCU said universities can afford to pay more and the offer does nothing to address a “real-terms pay cut” of 14.5 per cent that its members have suffered since 2009.
The strike also comes shortly after the university published its latest equal pay audit, which showed that men at the University of Northampton are paid around 15 per cent more on average than women.
The report also showed that women are concentrated in the lower grades and that 56 per cent of female staff are employed on casual or temporary contracts, compared to less than half of male colleagues.
The union’s pay claim calls for universities to commit to closing the gender pay gap and to reducing the proportion of staff on casual and zero-hour contracts.
As well as taking strike action, members will begin working to contract from Wednesday, which means they will refuse to work overtime, set additional work, or undertake any voluntary duties like covering timetabled classes for absent colleagues.
If no agreement is reached in the coming weeks, members have agreed to further strike action targeting open days and graduation ceremonies in June and July.
The union is also beginning preparations for a boycott of the setting and marking of students’ work, to begin in the autumn if an acceptable offer has still not been made.
The union is also angered at the 5.1 per cent average increase in pay for university leaders in 2014/15.
Latest figures reveal Professor Nick Petford, vice-chancellor of the University of Northampton, received a £5,000 pay rise in the past year, pushing his annual salary up to £217,000
Including benefits and pension allowances, Professor Petford’s total pay packet was £245,000.
Nick Cartwright, UCU branch secretary at the University of Northampton, said: ‘A 1.1 per cent pay offer is an insult when we know vice-chancellors have just had over five per cent.
“University staff can no longer put up with the continued squeeze on their income, and the university’s own equality pay audit shows that there is still a mountain to climb when it comes to tackling gender inequality and job insecurity.
“After six years of pay cuts and constant demands to do more for less, staff have said enough is enough. Industrial action which impacts on students is never taken lightly, but members feel that they have been left with no alternative. It’s time for universities to invest properly in teachers, researchers and administrators. The employers need to come back with a better offer which reflects the hard work of staff.”
A spokesman for the University of Northampton said there were no significant pay gaps where work of equal value is being done such as within the same grade.
The spokesman said the gender pay gap was skewed because the two most senior posts (vice chancellor and chief operating officer) in the university were held by men.
The exclusion of the two most senior posts in the SEN grade brings the gap to 7.9 per cent. The spokesman said the university has put in place actions to further close the gap in all grades where possible.
A spokesman for the University of Northampton said Professor Petford’s salary was below the national average of £274,405.
The spokesman said: “The salary of the Vice Chancellor and other senior staff is set by the independent Remuneration Committee of the University’s Governing Council. Competitive salary packages for senior staff are essential to attract and retain outstanding individuals who can drive the University’s objectives, and reflect the complexity of their role as the leader of an institution that competes in the global higher education sector.
“The Times Higher Education pay survey has found the average remuneration (including salary, benefits and pension) for university heads in 2014-15 was £274,405. The Vice Chancellor of the University of Northampton’s package is below this average, at £245,000. The survey also found almost one-in-five institutions paid their leaders 10 per cent more in 2014-15 than the previous year – the figure for Northampton is 2.4 per cent.”