Higher education employees at institutions across the UK, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds and more, have commenced strike action over a pay offer.
Administrators, cleaners, library, security and catering staff are among those taking industrial action, with many having also walked out last September, October and November.
The dispute is over a pay offer made by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which was rejected by university support staff but enforced for most of them in August. According to trade union Unison, this offer was not high enough to help staff cope with soaring prices and inflation.
Various trade unions representing higher education employees have also taken issue with the UCEA’s latest pay offer for the next academic year, which ranges from 5% to 8% depending on salary, with the consultation closing this week.
While Unison’s pay claim for 2023/2024 is for a flat-rate rise of £4,000, or an increase that matches the highest measure of inflation plus 2%, UCEA stated that it has proposed bringing forward part of next year’s pay increase for higher education staff to be paid from February.
Mike Short, head of education at Unison, said: “University workers don’t want to keep going on strike. But they’ve been left massively out of pocket and have no other option. Year upon year of below-inflation pay rises and soaring costs mean employees are leaving the sector for better wages elsewhere. Not only are staff struggling but students feel the effects when universities are short-staffed. These strikes could be averted if university employers did the decent thing and came back with a fair offer.”
Professor George Boyne, chair of UCEA, said: “Following detailed conversations, consultations and considered negotiations we have made a full and final pay offer that will be financially challenging for the majority of our institutions. Clearly the difficult inflationary costs are a joint concern for employees and employers alike but by recognising how inflation disproportionately affects lower paid staff, employers committed to implementing a proportion of this award six months early.”
Other unions with members involved in the dispute include Unite, the University and College Union (UCU), and the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS).