First UK-wide joint strike between higher education unions set for 31 October
Universities across the UK will be brought to a standstill by strike action later this month unless a row over pay can be resolved in the next two weeks.
The University and College Union (UCU), Unison and Unite trade unions announced today (Wednesday 16 October) that their members working in higher education will walk out on Thursday 31 October in an increasingly bitter row over pay.
Staff have been offered a pay rise of just one per cent this year, which means they have suffered a pay cut of 13 per cent in real terms since October 2008. Will Hutton this weekend highlighted that as one the most sustained cut in wages since the second world war (Article: Unless we change the way we fund universities, our system will collapse).
The squeeze on staff pay comes at a time when pay and benefits for university leaders increased, on average, by more than £5,000 in 2011-12, with the average pay and pensions package for vice-chancellors hitting almost £250,000 (Article: University bosses' pay hike an embarrassment to sector).
Follow the hashtag #fairpayinHE on Twitter for updates.
UCU head of higher education Michael MacNeil said: “Staff have suffered year-on-year cuts in the value of their pay. Quite simply, enough is enough. We urge the employers to reflect on the fact that they are about to face their first ever strike by three unions at the same time and come to the negotiating table to resolve this dispute.
“The suppression of academic pay is one of the most sustained pay cuts since the second world war and, while strike action is always a last resort, the fact that staff are prepared to take this step demonstrates just how angry they are.”
Unison head of higher education Jon Richards said: “Our members are upset and angry – this measly 1 per cent offer is simply not good enough. The work of support staff is essential for the smooth running of universities and they play a vital role supporting students, but many are struggling to survive on low pay.
“The gap between prices and pay has widened since this government came to power and trying to feed a family and heat a home is a daily worry. The fact that staff are willing to take strike action shows how desperate they feel. The employers should take note and come back with a more realistic offer.”
Unite national officer for education Mike McCartney said: “Our members have had enough of the poverty pay increases of recent years. They have suffered a 13 per cent real terms pay cut since 2008 and have been left with no option but to fight for what’s fair. There is still time for the employers to step back from the brink in this dispute. We urge them to get back around the negotiating table with the three unions to resolve it once and for all.”
UCU - Dan Ashley t: 020 7756 2600; m: 07789 518 992
Unison – Anne Mitchell t: 020 7383 0717; m: 07887 945 307
Unite – Chantal Chegrinec t: 020 3371 2065; m: 07774 146 777
More on the UCU ballot result
More on the Unison ballot result
More on the Unite ballot result
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.