Unite university staff strike tomorrow over ‘pay drought’

Unite university staff strike tomorrow over ‘pay drought’

30 October 2013

Unite members working in universities across the UK will be striking tomorrow (Thursday 31 October) in a dispute over a five-year ‘pay drought’.

Unite members working in higher education will be turning out in particularly strong numbers at the following universities: Cambridge, Cardiff, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton and Sussex.

The times, venues and contact numbers for Unite officers/reps can be found on the campaign website.

Unite, the country’s largest union - which is taking co-ordinated industrial action with the University and College Union (UCU) and Unison - said that its members’ real pay had been eroded by about 13 per cent since 2008 - and they needed a substantial rise to retain the dedicated staff to keep Britain in the top 10 world university league.

The unions said they were disappointed the employers - the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) - had refused talks to try and divert tomorrow’s walkout. Lectures will be cancelled as staff walk out in protest at a pay offer of just one per cent for 2013/14.

Staff will be on picket lines in towns and cities across the UK from early tomorrow morning, with many then making their way to local rallies in their area. All three unions expected there to be widespread support for the action, causing the most widespread disruption at universities for years.

Unite national officer for education Mike McCartney said: “Our members are taking this action with a heavy heart, but they have endured a five-year pay drought. We are calling for the employers to get around the table urgently so that our members contribution to the prestige and reputation of higher education is recognised.

“You have the curious scenario of highly-paid vice-chancellors at UK universities travelling the world extolling the merits of their universities to attract more foreign students.

“Yet, at the same time, our members, who underpin these highly regarded institutions of academic excellence, are treated with disdain when they ask for a decent pay rise, at a time when household bills, such as energy costs, are going through the roof.

“We hope that the strike will focus employers’ minds and they realise their staff are their most important asset and reward them accordingly."

The cumulative operating surplus in the higher education sector is now over £1 billion and many higher education institutions have built up cash reserves. Overall staff costs in higher education, as a proportion of income, have fallen from 58 per cent in 2001/02, to 55.5 per cent in 2011/12.

Unite’s membership embraces technicians, laboratory assistants, administrators and facilities management staff. The union has about 20,000 members in higher education.

The last time there was strike action in universities over pay was in 2006 when members of the University and College Union walked out.


For further information, please contact Unite national officer Mike McCartney on 07958 514 766 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940

More details on regional activity can be found at the UCU website which is being updated regularly.

Higher Education Statistical Agency figures reveal the following statistics (February 2013):

•    Managerial, professional, technical staff: 88,605 in the UK. In this staff group 12.5 per cent earn less than £23,121 and 39 per cent earn less than £31,020

•    Clerical staff: 71,130 in the UK. In this staff group 57 per cent earn less than £23,121 and 91 per cent earn less than £31,020

•    Manual staff: 40,875 in the UK. In this staff group 64 per cent earn less than £17,329; 87.7 per cent earn less than £23,121 and 97 per cent earn less than £31,020. 

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.