A picket line outside of the University of York (Source: @josiahmortimer)

Lecturers and support staff working at universities across the UK have walked out in an increasingly bitter row over pay.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU), Unison and Unite are protesting, for one day, because employees received a 2013/14 pay rise of only 1%.

The unions are demanding a basic pay hike of at least 3.2% to match inflation, plus an unspecified percentage for "catch-up", according to the University and Colleges Employers Association.

The UCEA argued that, with increments and contribution pay on top of the general pay uplift, sector pay is set to jump by an attractive 3%.

"Institutions tell us that the vast majority of staff understand the reality of the current financial situation and do not support action which would harm their institutions, and especially their students," a UCEA spokesperson said.

"[The industrial] action is passing off with only minimal disruption but since fewer than 5% of staff voted to support this strike this was not surprising. Nonetheless, we are all disappointed that, after six months of extended talks and what we believe is a fair pay offer, these trade unions remain on a path to cause disruption."

The organisation stressed that any form of industrial action is disappointing and that it hopes that the UCU, Unite and Unison will now reconsider the employers' offer.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said none of her members want to be on strike, but claimed a 13% real-terms pay cut as vice-chancellors' pay continued to increase and universities' surpluses built up is simply not fair.

"If the employers try to spin the action as having little impact then it merely shows how out of touch they are with what is really happening on the ground at universities," Hunt added.

"We are disappointed and annoyed that the employers are still refusing to talk to us and have wasted the past few weeks trying to undermine their staff's actions and, once again, ignored their concerns."