UK wide strike to hit universities

Published on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 11:46
Written by Daniel Mason

Feelings are running high ahead of the first strike to hit universities involving all three higher education unions, UNISON, UCU and Unite.

The UK wide strike is to go ahead after university employers ignored calls to make a last minute improved offer to defuse tensions and avoid disruption to students.

UNISON members are upset and angry at the 1% pay offer which see their pay fall by nearly 15% over the past four years. Over 4,000 staff are currently paid below the Living Wage while over half of vice-chancellors earn over £242,000 - 18 times more than the lowest paid. 1% of £13,486 is just £134.86 a year, £11.23 a month – not enough to cover the latest gas bill rises. By contrast, even if Vice Chancellors stick to a 1% increase – which would be a big surprise – they would trouser an extra £2,420 a year.

The disruption will go much further than lectures as UNISON's members carry out a wide variety of jobs such as supporting students on campus, in libraries, course administration, catering, cleaning and security. Many of the roles, particularly the catering and cleaning are paid at salaries below the Living Wage of £7.45p (London Living Wage £8.55p).

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, who will be joining members on the picket line tomorrow in London (details below) said:

"Taking strike action is never an easy decision, especially for those already struggling on low pay. With Christmas less than two months away losing a day's pay is even harder, but it shows just how angry and upset our members feel at this miserly 1% offer.

"Even members earning above the Living Wage are finding their incomes squeezed to breaking point. It is a disgrace that universities are sitting on cash surpluses worth £2bn, but they are not prepared to reward their staff, who are the backbone of our world class university system.

"We know that the total wage bill is falling while staff numbers have increased – that dynamic spells misery for many thousands of families. It is time for university employers to think again about the value that they place on their workforce and come back with a better offer."

Source: UNISON

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