NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

University of Exeter strike ends third week with rally and concert at St David's Church

The Exeter branch of the University & College Union (UCU) is taking part in four weeks of national industrial action over pensions, equal pay for female and BAME staff, increasing workloads and the use of casual employment contracts.

University of exeter 

Staff at the University of Exeter yesterday reached the end of a third week of industrial action over employment conditions.

Strikers marched through the city centre before holding a rally at St David’s Church which included free teaching sessions and a performance by protest singer Billy Bragg.

This round of industrial action began on 20 February with a two day strike, which was followed last week by a three day strike. This week’s four strike days are to be followed by five strike days next week.

Academic staff were joined on the strike by support staff from across the university as pickets were held at Streatham and St Luke’s campus entrances. Nac Datta, a research information technology officer taking part, said it was “not just a lecturers strike”.

Students have also been occupying university buildings in solidarity with the strikers.

Exeter University & College Union strike third week rally at St David's Church - Billy Bragg concert Billy Bragg playing at St David’s Church during Exeter UCU strike rally

The current strike is the latest chapter in a dispute that has been going on for two years over pay and pensions, including equal pay for female and BAME staff, increasing workloads and the use of casual employment contracts.

Last November an eight day strike was held in protest at the university’s extensive use of zero hours and short term contracts, a practice that is widespread in the sector, as well as pension scheme changes.

The University of Exeter is the sixth most insecure employer in the Russell Group, and 23rd most insecure among 165 UK higher education institutions, with 64% of all academic staff employed on insecure contracts.

And in March 2018 there was significant disruption on campuses across the country in response to pension scheme changes that affected 61 UK higher education institutions.

Exeter University & College Union strike picket at Streatham campus University of Exeter UCU strike picket at Streatham campus. Photo: @SabinaLeonelli.

The University & College Union (UCU) is striking over four issues: pay, employee workloads, use of casual contracts and pensions.

Alongside a pay increase in line with inflation the union wants to close gender and ethnic pay gaps. While the median gender pay gap in the sector is 13.7%, the University of Exeter’s 2019 gender pay gap was 18.6%, more than double the national average of 8.9%.

The union is also seeking the introduction of a 35 hour working week in their employment contracts.

Dr Sharon Strawbridge, Exeter UCU President and senior lecturer in physics, said: “A typical lecturer will be contracted for 37 hours a week, and often works between 50 and 70 hours.

“We have a system where the university’s bottom line is predicated on people working above and beyond their contracted hours.”

To address this issue, the union embarked on “action short of a strike” in November last year, in which staff do not perform unpaid work outside their contracted hours, do not cover for absent colleagues, do not reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action and do not undertake any voluntary activities.

Exeter University & College Union strike third week rally at St David's Church - Sharon Strawbridge speech Exeter UCU President Sharon Strawbridge speaking during Exeter UCU strike rally

Casualisation, or use of casual employment contracts, also became a UCU campaign focus last November.

A 2019 survey found that part-time and hourly paid teaching staff perform 45% of their work without pay, while 71% of the survey’s respondents said that they believed their mental health had been damaged by working on insecure contracts.

But it was changes to staff pensions that originally prompted the union to take action in 2018.

UK universities invest in a sector-wide pension scheme, changes to which affect over 400,000 people.

The changes at the centre of the dispute will increase pension contributions while reducing benefits, leaving a typical scheme member £240,000 worse off.

Exeter University & College Union strike picket at St Luke's campus University of Exeter UCU strike picket at St Luke’s campus. Photo: @lcpilling.

University of Exeter students expressed mixed feelings about the latest round of strikes.

A third year international law student who did not want to be named said: “Because of the strikes we missed out on an entire topic”, but also said he “sympathised with the staff 100%.”

Simone, a second year English student said: “Everything of mine’s been cancelled” but that she was nevertheless attending the rally in support of the strike.

Other students have been taking part in direct action in solidarity with the strikers, including camping on management car parking spaces for two nights in wintery conditions in February and again in March, saying they would vacate them if staff were to receive equal pay.

The group also occupied a lecture theatre overnight.

A spokesperson for the group said: “We were guaranteed no disciplinary action unless we engaged in criminal behaviour.

“However our treatment has changed dramatically from not being allowed food, water or access to toilets for hours to being watched even while we sleep”.

The occupying students left the next day after being threatened with legal action by the university, which said the students had “no mandate for causing disruption”.


UPDATE 9 March 2020:

Another rally planned for the end of the fourth week of the strike on Friday 13 March, in partnership with youth climate crisis campaigners Fridays For Future Exeter, has been cancelled in response to the developing coronavirus pandemic.


 is an artist and campaigner working in marketing and events.

Recent stories
University of Exeter full-time academic staff salary distribution 2020-21

University of Exeter lags behind on female pay and employment terms

Student houses in multiple occupation to let in Raleigh Road, Exeter

Information Commissioner to investigate university over student accommodation numbers refusal

Exeter ticket zone map

Stagecoach escapes major sanctions over service failures

University of Exeter Streatham campus picket line

University of Exeter staff strike in largest walkout in sector history

Devon County Council 2022-24 capital transport programme allocations

Motor vehicle infrastructure continues to dominate Devon transport spending

More News
Student houses in multiple occupation to let in Raleigh Road, Exeter

PLANNING & PLACE

Information Commissioner to investigate university over student accommodation numbers refusal

Compliance failure follows university admission that nearly 39,000 students based at Exeter campuses in 2021-22, suggesting around three quarters of city's private rented housing stock occupied by students.

University of Exeter Streatham campus picket line

COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

University of Exeter staff strike in largest walkout in sector history

Dispute over pay, pensions and working conditions continues as universities generate record income.

Reclaim the Night protest in Bedford Street

COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Reclaim the Night protest against sexual violence and harassment of women and girls in public space

Exeter event takes place after survey finding that 85% felt unsafe or very unsafe when walking alone in city centre at night, with police figures showing violent and sexual offences exceed 35% of all recorded crime in city.

All News
Analysis
University of Exeter full-time academic staff salary distribution 2020-21

COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

University of Exeter lags behind on female pay and employment terms

HESA figures show poor performance compared with Universities UK members and only incremental changes over past five years, mostly since staff began industrial action over pay, pensions and working conditions.

Exeter ticket zone map

TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Stagecoach escapes major sanctions over service failures

Traffic commissioner decides four days of free weekend travel in Exeter Plus ticket zone is sufficient penalty for poor performance despite public inquiry hearing severe criticism of company.

Devon County Council 2022-24 capital transport programme allocations

TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Motor vehicle infrastructure continues to dominate Devon transport spending

New active travel infrastructure to receive just 5% share of capital allocations this year and next, with new roads capital expenditure to increase from 74% to 86%.

All Analysis
Comment
Exeter City Council outline draft local plan site allocations crop

PLANNING & PLACE

Will council seek investment zone status for Liveable Exeter sites?

Government growth plans combine tax breaks with planning deregulation, putting affordable housing provision and environmental protections at risk with little evidence that promised investment zone benefits would result.

Extinction Rebellion UK tour bus outside Exeter City Council's Paris Street offices

CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

World car free day ignored in Exeter as Extinction Rebellion challenges council climate inaction

Protestors gathered outside council offices as CEO Karime Hassan posed for photo with construction company development manager at Princesshay promotion.

Exeter City Futures Exeter Development Fund presentation slide

PLANNING & PLACE

Exeter Development Fund: rent extraction, unaffordable housing and gentrification, but not net zero

Exeter City Futures' private debt-driven Liveable Exeter property development financing scheme is under fire from councillors who say it is based on insufficiently-evidenced assumptions and won't meet Exeter's housing needs.

All Comment
On our radar
On our agenda
New Exeter Local Plan

New Exeter local plan

A consultation on the outline draft version of the new Exeter local plan, which will guide development in the city until 2040, is now taking place.

At the same time changes to the national planning system that are on their way could require significant revision to the new plan before it is submitted to the inspectorate.

All topics

ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY   AIR QUALITY AIR QUALITY AIR QUALITY   COP26 COP26 COP26   COVID-19 COVID-19 COVID-19   CITYPOINT CITYPOINT CITYPOINT   CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE   CLIMATE CRISIS CLIMATE CRISIS CLIMATE CRISIS   CO-LIVING CO-LIVING CO-LIVING   CONGESTION CONGESTION CONGESTION   COUNCIL TAX COUNCIL TAX COUNCIL TAX   CROWN ESTATE CROWN ESTATE CROWN ESTATE   CYCLING & WALKING CYCLING & WALKING CYCLING & WALKING   DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT   DEVON CARBON PLAN DEVON CARBON PLAN DEVON CARBON PLAN   DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL   DEVON PENSION FUND DEVON PENSION FUND DEVON PENSION FUND   EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL   EXETER AIRPORT EXETER AIRPORT EXETER AIRPORT   EXETER CATHEDRAL EXETER CATHEDRAL EXETER CATHEDRAL   EXETER CITY COUNCIL EXETER CITY COUNCIL EXETER CITY COUNCIL   EXETER CITY FUTURES EXETER CITY FUTURES EXETER CITY FUTURES   EXETER CITY LIVING EXETER CITY LIVING EXETER CITY LIVING   EXETER COLLEGE EXETER COLLEGE EXETER COLLEGE   EXETER CULTURE EXETER CULTURE EXETER CULTURE   EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND   EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION   EXETER LIVE BETTER EXETER LIVE BETTER EXETER LIVE BETTER   EXETER LOCAL PLAN EXETER LOCAL PLAN EXETER LOCAL PLAN   EXETER PHOENIX EXETER PHOENIX EXETER PHOENIX   EXETER PRIDE EXETER PRIDE EXETER PRIDE   EXETER SCIENCE PARK EXETER SCIENCE PARK EXETER SCIENCE PARK   EXETER ST DAVID'S EXETER ST DAVID'S EXETER ST DAVID'S   EXETER TRANSPORT STRATEGY EXETER TRANSPORT STRATEGY EXETER TRANSPORT STRATEGY   EXETER CITY CENTRE EXETER CITY CENTRE EXETER CITY CENTRE   FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FREEDOM OF INFORMATION   FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER   GENERAL ELECTIONS GENERAL ELECTIONS GENERAL ELECTIONS   GUILDHALL GUILDHALL GUILDHALL   HARLEQUINS HARLEQUINS HARLEQUINS   HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP   HOUSING CRISIS HOUSING CRISIS HOUSING CRISIS   LGBTQIA+ LGBTQIA+ LGBTQIA+   LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD   LIVEABLE EXETER LIVEABLE EXETER LIVEABLE EXETER   LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY   LOCAL ELECTIONS LOCAL ELECTIONS LOCAL ELECTIONS   MAKETANK MAKETANK MAKETANK   MARSH BARTON MARSH BARTON MARSH BARTON   MET OFFICE MET OFFICE MET OFFICE   MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL   NET ZERO EXETER NET ZERO EXETER NET ZERO EXETER   NORTHERNHAY GARDENS NORTHERNHAY GARDENS NORTHERNHAY GARDENS   OXYGEN HOUSE OXYGEN HOUSE OXYGEN HOUSE   PARIS STREET PARIS STREET PARIS STREET   PARKING PARKING PARKING   PENINSULA TRANSPORT PENINSULA TRANSPORT PENINSULA TRANSPORT   PLANNING POLICY PLANNING POLICY PLANNING POLICY   PRINCESSHAY PRINCESSHAY PRINCESSHAY   PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT   PUBLIC CONSULTATION PUBLIC CONSULTATION PUBLIC CONSULTATION   PUBLIC HEALTH PUBLIC HEALTH PUBLIC HEALTH   PUBLIC REALM PUBLIC REALM PUBLIC REALM   PUBLIC TRANSPORT PUBLIC TRANSPORT PUBLIC TRANSPORT   RAMM RAMM RAMM   REFUSE & RECYCLING REFUSE & RECYCLING REFUSE & RECYCLING   RETROFIT RETROFIT RETROFIT   RIVERSIDE VALLEY PARK RIVERSIDE VALLEY PARK RIVERSIDE VALLEY PARK   ROYAL DEVON & EXETER NHS TRUST ROYAL DEVON & EXETER NHS TRUST ROYAL DEVON & EXETER NHS TRUST   SIDWELL STREET SIDWELL STREET SIDWELL STREET   SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION   SOUTH WEST WATER SOUTH WEST WATER SOUTH WEST WATER   SOUTHERNHAY SOUTHERNHAY SOUTHERNHAY   SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT   ST SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE ST SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE ST SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE   ST SIDWELL'S POINT ST SIDWELL'S POINT ST SIDWELL'S POINT   STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST   STUDENT ACCOMMODATION STUDENT ACCOMMODATION STUDENT ACCOMMODATION   TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL   UNIVERSITY OF EXETER UNIVERSITY OF EXETER UNIVERSITY OF EXETER  

More stories