Thousands of university workers strike again over wages

The employees ​are asking for a proper ​pay rise ​to help them cope with soaring ​prices.

Higher education staff are walking out over the coming days in a third wave of strikes over inadequate pay, says UNISON today (Thursday).

Administrators, cleaners, library, security and catering workers – many of them the lowest paid in the​ university sector – are among those taking industrial action. 

In the South West, Universities include the University of Bristol, University of Gloucestershire and University of the West of England. Staff at the Arts University Bournemouth have also announced strike dates. 

The employees ​are asking for a proper ​pay rise ​to help them cope with soaring ​prices. This follows several years ​where wages have failed to keep pace with inflation, UNISON says.

For most of the institutions affected, it’s the third wave of industrial action this academic year. Strikes have already taken place in September, October and November.

The ​dispute is over the 3% pay offer* made by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association ​(UCEA) last May. This was rejected by university support staff but paid to most of them in August.

With the lowest measure of inflation still in double digits, says the union, the rise in living costs is more than three times greater than the ​workers’ pay increase. The 3% amounts to a substantial cut, leaving staff out of pocket and struggling, UNISON adds. 

The union is also currently asking university staff for their views on the latest pay offer from the employers, which is for the academic year that begins in August. This ranges from 5% to 8% depending on someone’s salary. The consultation closes this week. 

The union’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 has proposed bringing forward part of next year’s pay increase for higher education staff so that it’s paid from February. But UNISON says this still won’t make up for next year’s offer because it’s so far below inflation.  

UNISON head of education Mike Short 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.” 

Strikes are due to take place at:

  • Arts University Bournemouth: 23 February, 1 March, 25 April 
  • University of Bristol: 16, 17, 22 February 
  • University of Gloucestershire: 14, 15, 16 February
  • University of the West of England: 14, 15, 16 February