Dear Mr Watson
Higher education strike - 31 October 2013
You should now be aware that UNISON higher education (HE) members have voted by a clear majority to take strike action. Members in UCU and Unite have also voted to strike.
This is in response to an inadequate 1% pay offer from the national HE employers. It falls well short of addressing years of below inflation increases, which have seen HE staff pay fall behind in real terms by over 13%.
In comparison, pay awards are higher in other sectors of the economy: the average pay settlement in the UK is currently between 2-2.5% in not-for-profit and private sector organisations. Yet the HE employers refuse to negotiate a better national offer, despite our continued best efforts to persuade them.
Universities are reporting record surpluses and are investing heavily in new buildings. Meanwhile, expenditure on staff pay has been falling, while vice-chancellors and other senior managers have shown little pay restraint, with over half of V-Cs now earning more than £242,000 a year.
Yet many universities hold down the pay for their lowest paid workers. More than 4,000 HE staff are paid less than the Living Wage while heating and food bills rise rapidly.
In addition HE jobs are being privatised, and there is a growing use of zero hour contracts, increasing the sense of job insecurity.
Taking part in strike action on 31 October will send a message to the employers that they must stop their attempts to act like the worst private sector employers. Universities couldn't run without you and your colleagues and they rely on your dedication, flexibility and goodwill.
I know that you have pride in the work you do and that for many of you the idea of taking action is a difficult one. However, unless we take a strong stand they will continue to take advantage of you and your colleagues.
You deserve a better standard of living for your hard work and the contribution that you make to the success of UK universities. To achieve this you need to speak up and show the depth of feeling among staff that it is time for a fair pay settlement in higher education.
I urge you to take action on 31 October and join with your fellow union members in UNISON, UCU and Unite to stand up to the employers and make clear what you are really worth.
Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary