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Low paid staff at the University of Glasgow to go out on strike

By Ben Short

Workers including cleaners, library and security staff will strike with Unison and GMB unions at the University of Glasgow.

Service staff at the University of Glasgow including cleaners, library, catering and
security workers have voted to take industrial action as they demand a pay rise. These workers, amongst the lowest paid in the higher education sector, will be striking under Unison’s branch at the University of Glasgow over a three day period from 19-21 September and a further two day period on 3-4 October.

Unison workers voted to strike due to the pay offer from the University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) back in May. Staff were offered a 3% pay rise instead of the 2% above inflation rise they had demanded. With inflation currently hitting 10% and on a continual upward trajectory to, predicted to reach 18.6% by January, Unison has called this offer a pay cut.

Workers at another 21 higher education institutions across the UK, including the University of Leeds, King’s College London and the University of Bristol, have also voted to strike with Unison. In Scotland, this includes Edinburgh Napier University, Glasgow Caledonian University and Robert Gordon University along with the University of Glasgow.

The 3% increase offer was made to staff earning above £25,627 per year – those earning below that were offered a slightly higher percentage increase. Those earning £17,338 per year were offered an additional £1,560, whilst UCEA offered workers on £24,871 per year a rise of £771.

Head of Education at UNISON Mike Short has said: “Low pay has been a major issue in the university sector for a decade now. It’s always a difficult decision to go on strike but staff feel like there is no other option. A 3% reward is nowhere near enough and the employers know it. Managers must put people before profits and pay their staff proper and fair wages.”

UofG Unison’s Branch Chair told The Glasgow Guardian: “Historically, UofG campus trade unions have found that our students have been supportive of strike action because they recognise the importance of well-paid, well-staffed institutions. Unison’s mandate to strike is aimed at gaining a long-overdue and substantial investment in the staffing resources and support needed in order to adequately support students through their educational journey.”

Paula McKerrow, Co-Branch Secretary for UofG saying: “It’s time for the University of Glasgow to stand by its sentiment of supporting its staff by putting pressure on UCEA to increase the national offer, and by doing everything in its power to consider local options within the framework of national bargaining.”

On the impact of the strikes on students, Sally Baxter, also Co-Branch Secretary stated: “I am keenly aware that our students and recent graduates may be facing the prospect of an even lower standard of living than I am. I hope that they will recognise and understand the challenges that all staff are presently facing, and that they know that our doors are always open if they have any questions or worries about how our mandate may impact them.”

Following the ballot, the Chief Executive of the UCEA Raj Jethwa said “UCEA
sympathises with those on the lowest incomes, who are disproportionately affected by
inflation” and claimed that the offer “included an uplift of up to 9 per cent for those on the
lowest points of the pay spine”.

Jethwa continued: “It is disappointing that Unison members in 22 HEIs in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland that were balloted have a mandate for industrial action. However, Unison failed to meet the threshold in two thirds of HEIs. Employers want to work with Unison and other unions to support staff and students, but isolated strike action over already awarded pay may simply hurt students and staff for no obvious outcome.”

Two other unions at the University have subsequently balloted in favour of strikes – JMB on 1 September and Unite on 2 September with its highest ever voting turnaround and a result of 86.3% of members for industrial action.


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Margaret McLaughlan

Excellent article.