In UK, University Unions Call For One-Day National Strike

Upset and angry with this year’s pay raise, members of the main three university unions in the United Kingdom will hold a one-day national strike at the end of October. The unions – the University and College Union (UCU), Unison and Unite – said that academics and support staff at universities and colleges across the country will walk out on October 31st if the dispute is not resolved in the next two weeks.

The unions are not satisfied with this year’s pay rise offer of just 1% for university staff, including lecturers, technicians and administration workers and are dissatisfied with a year-over-year pay cut. This year’s pay increase offer means they have absorbed a 13% pay cut in real terms since October 2008.

The unions are also concerned about growing numbers of zero-hours contracts offered to junior academics and technicians, according to Tom Mendelsohn of The Independent.

In 2011-12, pay and benefits for university leaders increased by £5,000 on average and a vice-chancellor in the UK now earns nearly £250,000.

“Staff have suffered year-on-year cuts in the value of their pay. Quite simply, enough is enough. We urge the employers to reflect on the fact that they are about to face their first ever strike by three unions at the same time and come to the negotiating table to resolve this dispute,” Michael MacNeil, UCU’s head of higher education, said.

“The suppression of academic pay is one of the most sustained pay cuts since the Second World War and, while strike action is always a last resort, the fact that staff are prepared to take this step demonstrates just how angry they are,” MacNeil added.

Jon Richards, Unison’s head of higher education, said support staff plays a vital role supporting students, but they are struggling to survive on low pay.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which represents and negotiates on behalf of universities as employers, said the unions’ decision to hold a strike is “disappointing.” The organization said more than 40% of staff covered by the negotiations would be eligible for further pay progression, taking their pay increase to around 4%.

The unions’ announcement comes the day before two teaching unions – the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the NASUWT – are due to stage a fresh regional strike in their continuing row over pay, pensions and workload.