Striking university staff urged to 'get back to work' as disruption affects Yorkshire students

Amber Rudd has urged university workers striking in a bitter dispute over pensions to "get back to work".

Which universities will be affected by strike action this month?

Students and staff at University Leeds came out in protest today against changes to pensions.

The Home Secretary said it was "important" that the row was resolved because "people need to get their degrees".

More than a million students could face disruption in the coming weeks as members of the University and College Union (UCU) take industrial action at campuses around the country.

Drivers face delays in Leeds city centre today and tomorrow when striking University of Leeds staff stage protest action in a row over pensions.

Strikers will set off from the university's Parkinson Steps entrance at 12pm and march to Victoria Gardens by Leeds Art Gallery for a 12.30pm rally.

Marchers will follow a route via Clarendon Road, Woodhouse Lane, Albion Street and the Headrow before arriving in Victoria Gardens Police officers will be deployed to supervise traffic.

The university is among 64 institutions, including Sheffield, Hull and York, that will be hit with 14 days of strikes over the next four weeks if the dispute over changes to staff pensions is not resolved.

Ms Rudd, who is also Women and Equalities Minister, was asked about the gender pay gap at universities during questions in the Commons.

Labour's Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) said: "Only three universities have so far reported on this and on a day when academics are bravely standing up to defend their pensions, can the minister tell us when she expects that the gender pay gap will be eliminated in our universities?"

Ms Rudd replied: "I would urge all universities to address reporting their gender pay gap: it is the law, they need to do so.

"And a word on the other matter if I may, I think it is important that this dispute between students, effectively, the universities and their staff is resolved because people need to get their degrees and I would urge the striking lecturers to get back to work."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, has sent "solidarity and thanks" to university workers as members of the University and College Union begin a month of walkouts in the latest stage of a bitter dispute over pensions.

Traffic delays in Leeds city centre as university staff stage two-day protest in pensions row

In a video message, the Labour leader said his party was "deeply concerned" about proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), as he urged employers to commit to negotiations.

Universities UK maintains the pension scheme has a deficit of more than £6 billion that cannot be ignored, and that changes are necessary.

Mr Corbyn said: "On behalf of the Labour Party, I want to send solidarity and thanks for all the work you do in our universities and colleges. We are deeply concerned by the proposed changes to the USS that would leave our university staff up to £10,000 a year worse off in retirement.

"It's been great to see strong support from students for striking staff, but for everyone's sake we need to find a solution which avoids further disruption.

"So I join staff and students in calling for the employers to commit now to meaningful negotiations, through Acas if necessary, to resolve this dispute."

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In his video message, Mr Corbyn also said: "Downgrading the pension scheme will affect recruitment, retention and ultimately our ability to offer world-class higher education.

"Everyone deserves the dignity and security in old age that comes from a decent pension."

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