Higher education strike – voices from the picket line


Universities and colleges across the country are facing disruption and closures today as Higher Education workers stage a one-day walkout over pay.

The action, which involves members from UNISON, Unite, UCU and EIS, is sending a clear message to employers that they deserve fair pay. UNISON members carry out a wide variety of jobs such as course administration, catering, cleaning and security. 

University staff have attracted widespread support after cash-rich universities offered a miserly 1% pay rise, effectively a 13% pay cut over the past four years. More than 4,000 staff in Higher Education are currently paid below the Living Wage*. 

In some locations security teams walked out at midnight, with postal delivery services refusing to cross picket lines. Several universities cancelled classes before the industrial action started, while the University of the West of Scotland announced yesterday it would close for the day. 

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis, who stood alongside workers this morning on picket lines at the London School of Economics and the University of Wesminster, said:

“Today’s action shows that universities rely on the dedication, flexibility and goodwill of our members. 

“We are sending a clear message to cash-rich employers that they must stop behaving like the worst private sector employers. Universities are sitting on a surplus of £1bn but are failing to invest in their workforce.

“Our members in higher education deserve a better standard of living for their hard work and the contribution they make to the success of UK universities.”

Voices from the front line:

John Hart, a UNISON member who works in the library at Lincoln University, said:

“I am on strike today for many reasons. Staff are low paid and are worth so much more, and we need to be listened to.” 

Rhiannon Owen, a UNISON member who works as a library assistant at Aberystwyth University, said:

“I am protesting against the derisory 1% pay offer. Universities can afford to pay more, and should pay more.” 

One student at the University of Bath said:
“Money is being creamed off to go in the pockets of Vice Chancellors, but there are no toilet seats in the students toilets!” 

Barbara McKenna, regional organiser in the East Midlands, said:
“We have all gates covered at Lincoln University. The vice chancellor brought coffee out to the picket line this morning, and students have pledged their support for us as well as the extra study time.”

Sam Leigh, UNISON regional organiser in Norwich, said:
“UNISON member support for the strike has been so strong that the public gallery and museum at the University of East Anglia has been closed for the day.”



Notes to Editors: 

The Living Wage is £7.65 an hour, and £8.80 in London