Raise wage offer and prevent more university strikes, says UNISON

Staff are already leaving for better-paid jobs in supermarkets, warehouses and coffee shops.

Support staff at 14 universities in England are being balloted from this week for industrial action over the “inadequate” pay offer from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), says UNISON today (Thursday).

Over the next five weeks, higher education workers including cleaners, IT technicians and library staff are to vote on whether to strike after the university employers put forward a wage rise that’s way below inflation, the union says.

The ballot of staff at universities in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, London, Brighton, Bristol, Winchester and Luton began on Tuesday (4 April) and continues until Tuesday 9 May.

Those taking part in the vote are the University of Bedfordshire, University of Bristol, Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool John Moores University, University of Leeds, University of Liverpool, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Sussex, University of the West of England and University of Winchester, as well as a number of University of London institutions: Birkbeck, Queen Mary, SOAS and Kings College London.

The 2023/24 pay offer falls far short of what staff deserve, says UNISON. It is worth between 5% and 8% depending on salary level, with lower paid workers getting the highest percentage rise. Some of this amount – around £83 per month before tax – began to be paid to staff in February to help staff with the increasing cost of living.

UNISON put the pay offer to higher education staff in February and their decision was to reject the amount.

UNISON head of education Mike Short said: “This is nowhere near enough. For years university support staff have received wage rises far below the cost of living.

“As bills and the cost of food continue to go through the roof, it’s essential that employers come up with much more than this inadequate sum.

“Staff are already leaving for better-paid jobs in supermarkets, warehouses and coffee shops. If universities don’t start paying more competitive wages, the sector risks a staffing crisis that would spell disaster for millions of students.”

Notes to editors:
– Details of how the 2023/24 pay offer will affect university support staff are available here.
– UNISON was in dispute with UCEA over the 2022/23 pay award and took strike action in 19 higher education institutions. This remains unresolved but as a result, UCEA offered to bring forward the start of pay negotiations for 2023-24 and pay part of this year’s wage rise early (from February).
– Talks are also ongoing between UNISON, other higher education unions and employers on a range of other issues. These include a review of salaries to better address low pay, reducing excessive workloads and the use of insecure contracts.
– 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.

Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk
Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk