“The continuing erosion of the pay of higher education support staff is a stain on the sector and flies in the face of assurances by employers that they value their workers,” representatives of that workforce declared as they debated pay at UNISON’s higher education conference in Nottingham.
Service group chair Denise Ward said it is “shocking and appalling that UNISON higher education members have lost between £1,300 and £8,500” over the last eight years, as she moved the successful motion setting out a pay strategy for 2019.
Conference called for a pay rise of RPI inflation plus 3% – or a lump-sum rise of £3,349 for staff on a 37-hour week, whichever is greater – to achieve a minimum rate of £10 an hour for all staff.
Delegates also called for all higher education institutions to become accredited living wage employers with the Living Wage Foundation – a key step to eliminating low pay, said Ms Ward.
She pointed out that, while vice chancellors might be paid £400,000 or more a year, “many of our members struggle to find the cost of transport to and from work”.
Delegates agreed, supporting the motion that declared: “It is time to ‘Catch Up’. Time to make up for the lost ground; following years of below inflation pay awards.
“Awards that don’t match increased shop prices, utility bills and housing costs … it is time for an end to insulting and derisory pay offers.”
UNISON will now work with sister unions on feeding this policy into a joint pay claim, said Ms Ward.
And conference called for co-ordinated lawful – and, if necessary, escalating – industrial action “in conjunction with fellow higher education unions” if the joint pay claim is not met.