University staff vote to strike over ‘ludicrously low’ pay rise

Managers must put people before profits and pay staff proper, fair wages

Parkinson Building, Leeds University

Thousands of university staff including cleaners, administrators, library, catering and security workers have voted to strike in a dispute over pay, says UNISON.

The workers, some of the lowest paid in the higher education sector, will walk out after rejecting a 3% pay award from the University and Colleges Employers Association in May, the union says. Staff had asked for a pay increase 2% above the rate of inflation,

With inflation topping 10% and further increases on the way, the award effectively represents a pay cut, the union says. The increase won’t touch the sides of the cost-of-living pressures decimating household budgets, says UNISON.

Staff in more than 20 universities across the UK will stage a series of strikes later in the year. Employees from four universities in Scotland, one in Northern Ireland and 17 in England will take action.

Institutions in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Bath, Belfast, Edinburgh and Glasgow will all be affected, says UNISON.

UNISON head of education Mike Short said: “Low pay has been a massive problem for the university sector for over a decade. Staff have become expert at stretching their pay to make ends meet. But the shock of the cost-of-living crisis has pushed many to breaking point.

“It’s always a very difficult decision to strike but staff feel they’ve been left with no choice. A 3% pay award is nowhere near enough and the employers know it. This ludicrously low increase does nothing to ease the financial pressures for thousands of struggling staff.

“Managers must put people before profits and pay staff proper, fair wages. If they don’t, employees will vote with their feet and leave universities for better paid, less stressful jobs.”

Notes to editors:
– Staff at the following universities have voted to strike: Manchester Metro University, Leeds Beckett University, Birkbeck (University of London), Liverpool John Moores University, City (University of London), Liverpool Hope University, King’s College London, University of Brighton, University of the West of England, London South Bank University, Bath Spa University, University of Leeds, University of Gloucestershire, University of Bristol, Royal Northern College Of Music, SOAS (University of London), University of Winchester, St Mary’s University College (Belfast), Edinburgh Napier University, Glasgow Caledonian University, University of Glasgow and Robert Gordon University.
– The strike ballot opened across all UK nations on 22 July 2022. In Scotland the ballot closed on 19 August 2022. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the ballot closed on 26 August 2022.
– The University and Colleges Employers Association made their final pay award on 9 May 2022.
– The 3% increase is for all staff earning £25,627 annually and above. Staff earning less than this were offered a slightly higher percentage, on a sliding scale, with those earning £17,338 being offered a rise of £1,560 and those earning £24,871 offered a rise of only £771.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.