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Protest over pay and pensions could lead to industrial action

Students back lecturers’ protest

By Paul Ainsworth

 

STUDENTS at Queen’s University have backed a protest by staff which could lead to industrial action if pay and pension demands are not met. Members of both the Unite union and the University and College Union (UCU) gathered at the main doors of the Lanyon building at the South Belfast university on Tuesday to protest their grievances,and warned that if further negotiations between staff and bosses at the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) did not lead to a “reasonable” outcome, then students could face disruption next term.

QUB staff technician Kevin Flanagan who represented Unite at the protest said that staff were facing increasing pay cuts while management were receiving rises.

“We’ve seen a 10 per cent reduction over the last few years,” he said.

“Meanwhile, last year alone, management staff got a 1.7 per cent increase.

“It’s not on, and for the minute we are protesting this, but if further negotiations are not forthcoming, this will change. If action was to be taken, it could be in the autumn, as the new term begins.”

Fellow Unite QUB employee Pat McGuigan added: “It could be we have no choice but to go to our union and vote on action if this isn’t resolved. However, we have been talking to students and they are for the most part supportive of what we are going through.”

Jason O’Neill, the President of Queen’s Students’ Union confirmed their support for the protesters, and said: “We support the staff out protesting today, and hope they get a fair deal.”

Among lecturers, the main gripe is over pension deals. Management School lecturer and UCU member Renee Prendergast said new lecturers were being offered worse packages than that of a school teacher.

“Unfortunately this is a long-running dispute, and we had a day of action last November to make our feelings heard,” she said.

“We’re joining with Unite members to show solidarity with each other. The last thing we want is for students to have classes disrupted with industrial action but we cannot rule anything out.”

In repsonse to the protest a Queens University spokesperson said: “The pay award for the University is agreed nationally and negotiations are continuing on the annual pay award for 2012/13.”

 

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