Higher education staff in the South East of England are walking out over the coming days in a third wave of strikes over inadequate pay, says UNISON today (Wednesday).
Administrators, cleaners, library, security and catering workers – many of them the lowest paid in the university sector – are among those taking industrial action.
Staff at the University of Brighton will be taking strike action on 16, 17, 20 and 21 of February, while at the University of Winchester staff will walk out on 21, 22 and 23 of the same month. They are joining colleagues in Universities across England – including those in Edinburgh, Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester – who will be taking action at different points of the month.
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.
This will be the third wave of industrial action this academic year. Strikes have already taken place at both institutions in 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. UNISON and other unions are in ongoing talks with employers through the arbitration service Acas to attempt to resolve the dispute.
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 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 South East regional secretary Steve Torrance 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.
“These problems are even more acute in cities like Winchester and Brighton, where the cost of living is particularly high.
“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:
– Strikes are due to take place on the following dates. Picket lines will be in operation at the main campuses of both universities from around 8am on strike days, with opportunities for pictures and further comments.
- University of Brighton: 16, 17, 20, 21 February
- University of Winchester: 21, 22, 23 February
– On 16 February a march and rally will take place in Brighton, supported by UNISON. Workers will assemble from 11.30am at the railway station and march to Victoria Gardens for midday.
– Other unions are currently also taking strike action in the higher education sector including the University and College Union, Unite and EIS.
– * Some staff on lower grades got up to 9%.
– 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.