STUDENTS at the University of Reading are supporting the ongoing UCU strike which has seen staff walk out all week. 

The walk-outs began on Monday and are scheduled to continue up to Wednesday, December 4. 

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are striking due to disputes over pay, working conditions and rising pension costs. 

Reading University Students’ Union (RUSU) is supporting the strike, after the students voted 65 per cent in favour of backing the industrial action. 

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Gareth Mills, a PhD student and part-time lecturer, said: “This was highly significant as it demonstrates that when asked, most students actually do support striking staff. 

“To my knowledge, we are the only university in the country that has put this to a vote at all, let alone won.”

In the strikes last year, RUSU did not support the strike. But following a petition, the union held a referendum this year, when students voted to support UCU.

Mr Mills said staff are under a ‘horrendous amount’ of admin, pressure, and bureaucracy, and many have to work unpaid overtime. 

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For example, he is only paid for three hours to mark 30 essays, each 2,000 words long. In reality, he spends two days marking that amount of work, most of the time doing it unpaid. 

He said: “There’s no way I can do it in three hours.” 

The walk-outs are due to finish next Wednesday, but after that staff will begin ‘action short of strike’, for three months. This includes only working contracted hours, and not doing any unpaid overtime.

Mr Mills said: “If everybody did it, the university would be shut down, it wouldn’t run. If staff hold the line, the university simply can’t function.”  

A University of Reading spokesperson said: “While the focus of negotiations between universities and unions has primarily been about pay and pensions, we recognise that working environments and conditions are also important to staff.

“At Reading, UCU representatives and others are working collaboratively with the University to make progress on a number of these issues. We are close to reaching a positive conclusion on job contracts for teaching staff, in particular.

“Working at a university is a hugely enjoyable and rewarding occupation, but we understand that it can also put pressure on our staff and we’ve acknowledged that we could support our colleagues better.

“We are committed to putting people first, which is why we have put our community at the heart of our new university strategy. The UCU plays an important role in that.”