LECTURERS across Wigan are today staging a one-day strike.
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are taking industrial action in a dispute over changes to their national pension scheme.
But while shop stewards were insisting that their high membership rate will bring both Wigan and Leigh College campuses to a standstill, bosses told their 11,000 students to turn up for lectures as usual.
The day of action is being widely supported across the North West with staff from the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Salford, Manchester City College, Trafford College, Rochdale College, Tameside College, Bury College, Stockport College and Salford College joining Wigan and Leigh in the action.
Teachers are angry over plans for greater pension contributions from staff and an increase in the pension age, against a backdrop of a second consecutive real-terms pay cut.
A picket line was posted outside the Parson’s Walk entrance to the Wigan campus from 8am this morning.
The UCU members’ action in the region is part of the first UK-wide strike in universities for five years and the first in further education colleges since 2008.
The union has received the support of the National Union of Students, despite the likely disruption to their members’ studies.
UCU Wigan branch chair Tim Horrocks claims that there was a “significant worsening” of the Teachers Pension Scheme announced in the Hutton report publisherd earlier this month.
Also lecturers at Wigan and Leigh College have had a pay rise of 0.2 per cent for this year, while current inflation rates are in excess of four per cent.
Mr Horrocks said: “Our members do not take strike action lightly and have no wish to damage the education of the students, but the Government attacks on our pensions must be resisted.
“Our members are being asked to pay more money and work longer to get a worse pension.
“The proposals are unnecessary as the Teachers Pension Scheme is not in crisis.”
The UK-wide action comes on top of four days’ strike action at 67 UK universities across the UK in a row over pensions.
Principal of Wigan and Leigh College Cath Hurst said: “Wigan and Leigh College expects some college staff to participate in the UCU strike. We will, as usual, do our upmost to minimise disruption and students are advised to attend their classes as normal.”