SDLP Higher Education Spokesperson Sinéad McLaughlin has said an agreement must be reached to prevent lengthy strike action by university staff.
University and College Union (UCU) members at Queen’s (QUB) and Ulster University (UU) have announced dates for 18 days of strike action.
Ms McLaughlin expressed concern around the impact of the strikes on students and urged the universities to work with the UCU and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) to reach a solution.
Foyle MLA Ms McLaughlin said:
“This plan for unprecedented strike action follows a refusal by universities and the government to address the pressures facing university staff and their concerns around fair pay, working conditions and pensions. The SDLP stands firmly behind staff as they fight for a resolution to these issues which they have been raising for some time.
“If these strikes go ahead, they have the potential to seriously disrupt the education of our students and this is particularly concerning after the massive disruption experienced in recent years due to the coronavirus pandemic. While I know that students will stand in solidarity with staff, every effort must be made to avoid this interruption.
“University staff are experiencing the same pressures as everyone else in our society and we need to see this acknowledged by the individual University Vice-Chancellors and the UCEA. People cannot be expected to work to the best of their ability while they are plagued with concerns around how they will pay their bills or if they will receive an extension to their temporary contracts. We need to immediately see a deal reached which recognises the contribution and concerns of staff while preventing this negative impact on students’ experiences.”