Higher education: why I’m striking

UNISON members in higher education deserve fair pay for the work they do – and they’ve been explaining why they’re striking on Thursday to get it.

The employers responded to their call for fair pay with an offer of 1%. Following a ballot for strike action, UNISON members have voted to take action to demand that the employers improve their offer.

A real-terms pay cut of 13% since 2008 – especially for those on low pay – is having an effect, and UNISON members are saying that enough is enough.

No one takes strike action lightly, but UNISON members across the UK are prepared to take strike action for fair pay.

James Appleby from Leeds Metropolitan University says: “I have been saddened to hear stories and conversations in recent years about the real-life issues facing our members who are making their pay packet stretch the month.

“Staff are trying to get extra hours or seeking second jobs just to pay the bills and more are seeking support to bridge a bad month. Those conversations are the reason why I will be on the picket line from 6am and at the march at lunchtime on the 31 October.

“I would urge you to stand up and show that we believe in looking after each other. What we are asking for is reasonable and is a fair days pay for a fair day’s work.”

Freyja Peters from the University of Manchester also spoke of her reasons for taking part in strike: “I am striking because I believe it is critical to take a stand on this issue. It’s easy to conceive of universities as sheltered places – the ivory towers cliche, but this image obscures the cleaners, porters, administrators, librarians, security guards, technicians, caterers and myriad other staff who comprise the majority helping to maintain world-class institutions.

“These people will not appear in glossy promotional materials. Instead, their reward is a salary ‘increase’ which has already lost them between £663-£1,173 a year over the past five years.

“My decision to strike was easy and based on two simple questions. First, can universities afford a better offer? The answer is ‘yes’. When recent HEFCE [Higher Education Funding Council for England] reports indicate ‘sound overall’ financial results, and when a ‘real-terms reduction’ in pay costs helped universities have record cash surpluses – our loss has been their gain!

“Second, can we, as employees, afford this pay cut? No! Teamed with zero-hour contracts and broken promises on living wages for all higher education employees, 1% puts our lowest-paid colleagues at greater risk.

“For them, 1% is not a pay rise, but rather a further step towards the reality of poverty.”

Everyone has their own reason for taking part in this strike action. UNISON members will be joining colleagues from UCU and Unite, supporting each other on this day of action striking for fair pay in higher education.

UNISON members add their voice and say why they will take strike action in a YouTube film.

YouTube video about the strike

Higher education strike