EIGHT days of strike action have started today at the University of Reading (UoR) due to disputes over pay, working conditions and rising pension costs. 

Members of the University and College Union have walked out today and are expected to continue the strike up to Wednesday, December 4. 

Deepa Govindarajan Driver, UCU Reading branch president, said: “Strike action is a last resort, but universities’ refusal to engage with us on absolutely key issues has left us with no alternative but to take industrial action.”

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Staff have been on the picket lines at the Queen’s Drive entrance, off Shinfield Road, as well as the London Road campus, from 8am. 

The strike is affecting 60 universities across the UK, following UCU members backing strike action in ballots at the start of November. 

At the UoR, 72 per cent of polled UCU members voted for strikes over changes to pension schemes, and 68 per cent voted for strikes over pay and conditions. 

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Union members have also today begun ‘action short of strike’, like working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action. 

Ms Govindarajan Driver said: “Issues such as lack of progress on pensions and equalities barriers remain at the forefront of the challenges our members face, with the gender pay gap at Reading at 18.5 per cent, even more than the already high national average of 15.15 per cent.

“Staff and students are suffering and it is both staggering and insulting that universities have not done more to work with us to try to find a way to resolve these disputes.

“We hope students will continue to put pressure on university vice-chancellors to instruct their representatives to get back round the negotiating table for serious talks with the union and credible action on staff concerns.” 

Reading University Students’ Union (RUSU) is supporting the strike. Student members voted in a referendum to support the UCU. 

Molli Cleaver, RUSU president, said: “RUSU will continue to support individual students, through our advice and representation functions, in relation to the impact strikes may have on individual students’ academic student experience and academic progression.” 

Not all staff at the UoR are participating in the action, and impact on students will vary across schools and departments. According to the university, the majority of teaching will still go ahead. 

Students who feel their assessed coursework or exams have been impacted can notify the university through a specific process. More information is available on the UoR’s website. 

A UoR spokesman said: “We are disappointed that some staff are taking part in industrial action.

“The vast majority of university activities are continuing as normal and our priority now is to ensure students’ learning is not unduly affected.”

Have you been affected by the strike? If so, let us know by emailing alex.seabrook@newsquest.co.uk.