HE Pay: time running out to vote!

If you work in higher education, it’s likely that UNISON has asked you to vote in an industrial action ballot. This is because for the 2020/21 pay offer, the employers rewarded your hard work during the pandemic with a pay freeze. You can find out more about the ballot on our website, but we asked some of the key figures involved in the dispute for their thoughts – and why it’s crucial that you return your ballot paper by 10th August.


Toby Westcott-White, branch secretary at University of Surrey:

[We’re balloting our members because] staff have worked tirelessly over this year to teach, administer, maintain, and clean buildings, serve food and keep our campuses and students safe. No member of staff deserves this pay offer.


Tracy May, branch secretary at University of Chichester:

Our members worked hard during the pandemic to ensure ‘business as usual’ – they deserve recognition for going over and above.


Neil Duncan-Jordan, UNISON South East Region lead for higher education:

Members in HE have suffered years of below inflation pay increases and to be offered absolutely nothing for the year when they have worked tirelessly to keep universities going is seen as a total betrayal by their employer.


Ann Jones, Solent University and branch chair at Southampton District branch:

Please vote. If the turnout is high, it sends an important message to our employers that members are engaged and organised. 


Emily Stevens, branch assistant and steward, UNISON Open University branch:

This is your chance to have your voice heard. Whether you agree with the UNISON line of response or not, it is important for us to show a strong return on this vote in order to prove to the employers that we are a force to be reckoned with. When the employer can see that there is a large, engaged workforce, regardless of the ballot outcome, it makes them think twice about the decisions they make that affect those that hold up their organisations.


Claire Sedgwick, branch secretary at University of Southampton:

In order for the results of a ballot to stand, we need a turnout of at least 50%. By not voting, you are not only effectively voting no, but you are making it least likely your fellow members’ vote will count.


Ivan Bonsell, branch secretary at University of Brighton:

[We need you to vote because] the anti-democratic, anti-trade union laws say we need a 50% turnout, but also because whatever decisions we make need to reflect the democratic will of our members. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the result.


Neil Duncan-Jordan, UNISON South East Region lead for higher education:

Universities have had a difficult time during the pandemic and our members are understandably concerned about their job security, but seeing the value of your wages fall year on year eventually means our members are getting poorer and poorer. The whole sector needs an injection of funding from government rather than being the arena in which a culture war is being played out.


Tracy May, branch secretary at University of Chichester:

Good Universities would have budgeted for a pay increase – the pandemic is not a reason to claw it back to spend elsewhere.


Ivan Bonsell, branch secretary at University of Brighton:

It’s crucial that we get a decent result, otherwise another year of real-terms pay cuts goes by and we know that many of our lower-paid members are struggling. The cost of real things that we all need to buy – housing, food, transport, bills are going up, so our pay has to go up as well. Which won’t happen unless we put real pressure on the employers.


If you work in higher education, there’s never been a more important time to join the UK’s largest trade union.