STAFF at Lancaster University have gone on strike to protest precarious work conditions and hits to pension schemes.

The University and College Union (UCU) announced strikes at 74 different campuses across the UK earlier this month.

UCU members are walking out in two disputes - one over pensions, and another over pay and working conditions – in the largest strike ever seen at UK universities.

The strikes are expected to run into March.

Striking staff at Lancaster University began to take to the picket lines last Thursday and Friday. They say they will continue their action until they receive what they consider a ‘meaningful response’ from the university’s management.

An open letter addressing ‘discrimination against trade union members by Lancaster University’ was also delivered to the university’s vice chancellor earlier this month. The letter had over 400 signatories.

Sunil Banga, UCU branch vice-president and pensions officer at Lancaster University, summed up one of the main factors behind the strike by saying: “Our pay has declined in real terms by 20% over the last decade.

"How can students expect a decent quality teaching experience when staff don’t know where they’ll be from one semester to the next?”

Dr Nils Markusson, a post-doctoral researcher and lecturer at the university’s Department of Geography and Environmental Science[s], said: “We had over 100 people turn out in the cold, the sleet and rain. The weather hasn’t dampened our spirits one bit.

“We’ve had one person on the picket lines with us this week who has had 25 different contracts with the university in the last 18 months. This tells you a lot about the current working arrangements at the university and others across the country. We have negotiated a policy at the university that aims to improve our working conditions. But currently they’re nothing more than words on a piece of paper.”

Cllr Phillip Black said: “UK academics juggle many competing priorities and demands on their time. They are expected to maintain their specialist subject knowledge, to conduct detailed research and of course to teach at world leading standards. Delivering all of this is virtually impossible within normal contracted working hours. It is not uncommon for academic professionals to work dozens of unpaid hours every week.

“To add insult to injury the academic community has faced years of falling pay in real terms at the same time as seeing substantial reductions to their financial provision in retirement.”

"Universities need not only to address fair pay awards and stable secure pension offers, but also to examine a culture where the layering of unreasonable expectations on to staff is commonplace."