THE UNIVERSITY of Reading will be hit with 14 days of strike action throughout late February and March.

The University and College Union (UCU) announced yesterday (Monday, February 17) that the action will start on Thursday, February 20 and escalate each week, culminating with a week-long walkout from Monday, March 9 to Friday, March 13.

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UCU members at 74 UK universities will be involved in the strike action following disputes over pay, working conditions and rising pension cost.

The full strike dates are: Thursday, February 20 and Friday, February 21 in week one; Monday, February 24 - Wednesday, February 26 in week two; Monday, March 2 - Thursday, March 5 in week three and Monday, March 9 - Friday, March 13 in week four.

UCU members at Reading were among staff at 60 universities who walked out for eight days of strikes before Christmas.

The union also warned it would ballot members after this wave of strikes, if the disputes could not be resolved, to ensure branches could take action until the end of the academic year.

Strike mandates are only legally valid for six months, so branches who walked out in November would need to secure a fresh mandate to be able to continue to take action after April.

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As well as the strike days, union members are undertaking "action short of a strike", which involves working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "If universities want to avoid further disruption they need to deal with rising pension costs, and address the problems over pay and conditions.

"We have been clear from the outset that we would take serious and sustained industrial action if that was what was needed.

"As well as the strikes later this month, we are going to ballot members to ensure that we have a fresh mandate for action to continue until the end of the academic year if these disputes are not resolved."

A University of Reading spokesman said: "We are disappointed that UCU has called for industrial action.

"We respect the rights of our staff to strike and are working to minimise disruption to our students.

"National-level negotiations between UCU and universities have been continuing on pensions, pay and other related matters.

"Working with the Reading UCU branch, the University has made good progress on important matters, including on issues for teaching staff with fixed contracts, and working to close the gender pay gap.

"The outcomes of these discussions will benefit the whole university community."