Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Higher education workers to walk out for third day over pay

21 Jan 2014 12:13 
Caterers, cleaners, security guards and student support staff in universities across the country will be among those walking out for a third time on 6 February, as their bitter row with cash-rich higher education employers rolls on. 

The UK-wide strike will involve members from UNISON, UCU and EIS, and follows previous strikes on 31 October and 7 December last year. 

Universities have effectively shut down talks and begun to forcibly impose their miserly 1% pay offer.   This is another blow to low paid staff in higher education who have seen their pay fall by 13% in real terms over the past five years.

More than 4,000 higher education workers are currently paid below the living wage, which is £7.65 an hour or £8.80 an hour in London. This is despite universities building up cash reserves of more than £2bn over the past two years, with the Higher Education Funding Council predicting this trend will continue for the next few years. 
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. 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 general secretary Dave Prentis said:

"It is a very difficult decision to take strike action, particularly for those on low pay.   UNISON members are angry that cash-rich universities are ignoring the financial hardship that they and their families are facing, and they are not prepared to accept the crumbs off the high table.

"Universities are keen to proclaim their success and line the pockets of Vice Chancellors and their cronies with inflation busting rises as a reward, and yet 4,000 higher education staff earn below the Living Wage.

"Universities are sitting on billions of pounds of surplus money and they can afford to pay a decent wage to hard working staff. Workers who have managed to hang onto their jobs through significant changes have seen their workload increase dramatically, yet their incomes have been squeezed to breaking point."


Notes to Editors

UNISON members in higher education took part in nationwide strike action on 31 October 2013 and 3 December 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 third day of action following discussions with other trade unions after the employers refused to increase their pay offer.

Higher education has a greater gender pay gap than the rest of the public sector.
More than half of higher education institutions are using zero hours contracts and the numbers are growing.

In the last two years surpluses in the sector have been over £2bn.  Student fee income has more than offset cuts in government grants.

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