Thousands of university workers strike again over wages

Third wave of action over coming days

Higher education staff are walking out over the coming days in a third wave of strikes over inadequate pay, says UNISON today (Thursday).

Administrators, cleaners, library, security and catering workers – many of them the lowest paid in the​ university sector – are among those taking industrial action.

Universities including those in Edinburgh, Brighton, Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester will be affected, says UNISON. Staff at the Glasgow School of Art have also announced strike dates.

The employees ​are asking for a proper ​pay rise ​to help them cope with soaring ​prices. This follows several years ​where wages have failed to keep pace with inflation, UNISON says.

For most of the 17 institutions affected, it’s the third wave of industrial action this academic year. Strikes have already taken place in September, October and November.

The ​dispute is over the 3% pay offer* made by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association ​(UCEA) last May. This was rejected by university support staff but paid to most of them in August.

With the lowest measure of inflation still in double digits, says the union, the rise in living costs is more than three times greater than the ​workers’ pay increase. The 3% amounts to a substantial cut, leaving staff out of pocket and struggling, UNISON adds.

The union is also currently asking university staff for their views on the latest pay offer from the employers, which is for the academic year that begins in August. This ranges from 5% to 8% depending on someone’s salary. The consultation closes this week.

The union’s pay claim for 2023/2024 is for a flat-rate rise of £4,000 – or an increase that matches the highest measure of inflation plus 2%.

UCEA has proposed bringing forward part of next year’s pay increase for higher education staff so that it’s paid from February. But UNISON says this still won’t make up for next year’s offer because it’s so far below inflation.

UNISON head of education Mike Short said: “University workers don’t want to keep going on strike. But they’ve been left massively out of pocket and have no other option.

“Year upon year of below-inflation pay rises and soaring costs mean employees are leaving the sector for better wages elsewhere.

“Not only are staff struggling but students feel the effects when universities are short-staffed. These strikes could be averted if university employers did the decent thing and came back with a fair offer.”

Notes to editors:
– *Some staff on lower grades got up to 9%.
– Strikes are due to take place at:

  • Arts University Bournemouth: 23 February, 1 March, 25 April
  • Birkbeck, University of London: 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23 February
  • City, University of London: 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23 February
  • Glasgow Caledonian University:  9, 10 February
  • The Glasgow School of Art: 16, 21, 22 February
  • Leeds Beckett University: 9, 10 February
  • Liverpool Hope University: 16 February
  • London South Bank University: 21, 22 February
  • Manchester Metropolitan University: (took strike action earier this week)
  • Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh: 21, 22, 23 February
  • School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London: 9, 10, 21 February
  • University of Brighton: 16, 17, 20, 21 February
  • University of Bristol: 16, 17, 22 February
  • University of Gloucestershire: 14, 15, 16 February
  • University of Leeds: 9, 10, 11, 12, 22, 23, 24 February
  • University of the West of England: 14, 15, 16 February
  • University of Winchester: 21, 22, 23 February

– Other unions are currently also taking strike action in the higher education sector including the University and College Union, Unite and EIS.
– 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.

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