Unison members to join UK university strikes this week in pay row

Cleaners, security guards and catering staff set to be on picket lines alongside UCU colleagues

十一月 21, 2022
Strike placards

Cleaners, security guards and catering staff will join picket lines outside UK universities this week.

The Unison union said members at 19 institutions would strike in their dispute with employers over pay, with most of the walkouts coinciding with action taken by the University and College Union.

Both unions rejected the Universities and Colleges Employers Association’s offer of a minimum 3 per cent pay rise for 2022-23 back in May.

With inflation currently running into double digits, Unison members – also including administrators and library staff – face a substantial real-terms pay cut, said head of education Mike Short.

“Low pay has been a massive, and growing, problem in the university sector for more than a decade,” he said. “The cost-of-living crisis is pushing people to the brink. University support staff can’t even cover the basics. They’ve had enough and are quitting the sector for jobs on better pay. “Going on strike is always a last resort, but the inadequate pay workers have been given this year is the final straw.”

Institutions affected by the Unison action include King’s College London, and the universities of Bristol and Leeds. Walkouts mostly extend over one, two or three days, and frequently coincide with the UCU action on 24, 25 and 30 November. At Leeds the action will run for a week from 24 November.

Unison members had already walked out at the start of September as part of the dispute.

The UCU action, which also covers the dispute over pensions provided by the Universities Superannuation Scheme, is a nationwide walkout for the first time, with about 70,000 members at 150 institutions eligible to take part.

Speaking at Times Higher Education’s THE Campus Live event last week, university leaders admitted that institutions attempting to balance the books had been “systematically underpaying” staff for years. 

Speaking to THE, however, Ucea chair George Boyne said affordability was “the big constrictor” on whether bigger pay rises would be possible.

Raj Jethwa, Ucea’s chief executive, said universities were “most concerned for those on lower incomes, who are disproportionately impacted by inflation”.

“That is why the 2022-23 New JNCHES pay award included an uplift of up to 9 per cent for those on the lowest points of the pay spine, and why Ucea worked with employers to implement the uplift,” Mr Jethwa said.

“While Ucea is not proposing to re-open the 2022-23 pay round, which our member HE institutions have consistently confirmed as fully concluded, we are consulting on the possibility of bringing forward the New JNCHES 2023-24 pay negotiations. Ucea’s current consultation follows in-depth discussions with our members across September and October in response to cost-of-living concerns.

“We would seriously urge Unison members not to take strike action.”




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