UEL staff strike outside Stratford Campus

Staff at the University of East London (UEL) took strike action today over an increase in workload.

Escalating a dispute that started in May, members of the University and College Union (UCU) kicked off a series of strikes outside the Stratford Campus on Water Lane.

The argument centres over changes to workload agreements that the union say could compromise standards with staff not given enough time to prepare for lessons, mark papers and provide individual support for students.

Talks between the union and UEL stalled earlier this month and UCU said that while it was beginning preparations for a programme of action there was still time for a negotiated settlement.

UCU regional official, Greg Barnett, said: “It is deeply regrettable that we have to escalate our dispute with the university. However, these planned changes to terms and conditions remove vital protections for our members and will endanger standards as staff are denied the necessary time to mark students’ work.

“It must be compulsory for teaching and marking loads to be taken into account when workloads are set. Similarly, staff must have a right of appeal to independent governors if they have been bullied or treated unfairly. University managers talk a great deal about the need to improve the student experience but under the new arrangements it will be students, as well as our members, who suffer in the long run.”

A UEL spokesperson said: “Following a ballot of its members, The University and College Union (UCU) has informed the University that it may carry out industrial action from the start of next term.

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“We are currently in discussion with UCU officials regarding the matters in dispute and will continue to do all that is practically possible, through this consultation process, to reach a resolution with the Union.

“Our overriding priority is to ensure that the student experience remains at the same high level as our students expect and deserve.”

UCU branch secretary at UEL, Jacqui Mitchell, said: “Nobody at UEL wants to take strike action and there is still time to reach a negotiated settlement. However, if the university refuses to address our concerns we will go ahead with this action in the autumn.”

Dates for the strike action will be announced next month.