Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, has today (Monday 23 September) begun balloting thousands of members employed in the higher education and university sector in a dispute over real terms cuts in their pay and rising workloads.

The industrial ballot was called following the collapse of pay talks.

Workers have had a pay increase below the cost of living imposed on them, with management claiming lack of funds. However the most recent figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that in 2017/18 income for all UK universities rose by approximately £2.5 billion.

Unite is seeking:

  • A pay rise in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI) plus three per cent or a minimum increase of £3,349 (whichever is the greater)
  • A minimum wage for all staff of £10 an hour
  • The abolition of precarious employment practices which are often utilised by university employers
  • A reduction of excessive workloads and the implementation of stress management systems
  • The establishment of a 35 hour working week
  • Action to close the gender and ethnic pay gap.

A recent survey of Unite members working in higher education found that in excess of 60 per cent said that their pay has not kept up with the cost of living and half are not satisfied with their current level of pay.

The survey further found over 80 per cent of respondents reported that they regularly work beyond their contracted hours and over half have considered quitting their jobs over the past 12 months.

Unite national officer Siobhan Endean said: “Unite members who work in universities are preparing for the new academic year with the knowledge that they have yet again had a derisory pay increase imposed on them that falls well below the increase in the cost of living.

 “Higher education staff work long hours and 70 per cent report that they suffer work-related stress. They provide much needed support to students, ensuring their accommodation, laboratories, libraries and lecture halls are safe, clean and ready for learning. 

 “It is clear, that universities have suitable financial resources to invest in their staff but choose not to do so.

 “It is vital that all members participate in the ballot to send a clear and unequivocal message to management that they will no longer accept a continuous erosion in pay.

 “Unite urges UCEA, the university employers, to come back to the negotiating table with a better offer on pay.”

The ballot will close on Thursday 31 October.


Notes to editors:

 For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

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