Union members working in higher education will walk out for a second day today in an increasingly bitter pay row.
Cash-rich university employers failed to increase their miserly 1% pay offer, a proposal which would condemn workers to a fifth consecutive pay award that is below the cost of living.
The UK-wide strike is to go ahead after employers refused to make an improved offer and avoid disruption to students during last minute talks. It will involve members from UNISON, UCU, Unite and EIS.
Staff pay in higher education has fallen by nearly 13% over the past four years, with more than 4,000 workers currently paid below the Living Wage. The Living Wage is £7.65 an hour or £8.80 an hour in London.
UNISON members who support students on campus, in libraries, course administration, catering, cleaning and security are paid at the lowest salaries despite universities sitting on a surplus of £2bn.
The median salary of vice chancellors is £242,000, with the highest paid employee in higher education receiving more than £500,000. Yet workers at the bottom end of the pay scale earn just £13,486.
UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said:
“The decision to take action so close to Christmas shows the depth of feeling that this issue has caused. 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.
“The employers’ imposed payment of 1% does not address the increasing cost of living for staff who face rising energy costs and increasing food bills, and does little for the 4,000 staff working in universities who earn less than the living wage.
“A fair day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay, and higher education workers deserve a better standard of living in return for their hard work and the contribution they make to the success of UK universities.”
Across the UK terms and conditions amongst higher education workers are being eroded while job insecurity is increasing. There is a greater use of zero hour contracts and an increase in the gender pay gap.
UNISON's members in higher education took part in nationwide strike action on 31 October 2013, seeking a significant improvement on the employer’s 1% pay offer. The union’s higher education service group executive took the decision to call for a second day of action following discussions with other trade unions after the employers refused to increase their pay offer.