Support our striking members in higher ed

Taking strike action at any time of year is a difficult decision – and especially in the lead-up to Christmas.

But on Tuesday, our members in higher education are continuing their stand against the miserable 1% pay offer from cash-rich universities.

I will be joining them on the picket line to demonstrate UNISON’s full support and backing for the action.

During the first day of action in October, our members stood alongside those from UCU and Unite, and now we are joined by colleagues from EIS. 

It will be the first time that all four unions have taken co-ordinated action, and it is a sign of how strongly our members feel. 

We have sent a clear message to employers that a fifth consecutive pay award that is below the cost of inflation is not good enough.

We have given them time to think again and come back with a better offer. But despite sitting on a surplus of £2bn, a better offer has not been put forward. 

The vast majority of higher education workers are low paid. 4,000 are paid less than the living wage.

For those on the lowest pay band, a 1% pay increase would mean just £11.23 a month. This does not even come close to covering the rising cost of food, energy and other essentials. 

Employers must recognise that our members form the backbone of university life. They must invest in the people that actually deliver the student experience. 

Our members work hard to support students on campus, run the libraries, take care of course administration, feed the students, keep them safe and clean their university premises. And yet the contribution they make is still being overlooked. 

We hear stories from across the country of universities splashing out on a new football stadium, elaborate Christmas decorations and even Picasso paintings.

Some even have the audacity to give with one hand and take with the other, by increasing car parking charges for staff, meaning any 1% pay rise would be lost. 

On top of this, vice chancellors are sitting pretty on average salaries of £242,000 a year – the equivalent of 18 years’ wages for those at the bottom.

I would urge members across the union to back the strike and join in any lunchtime rallies or marches in their area.

Let’s show the employers that it is time to think again and come back with a better offer.

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