Striking support staff picket the University

By Alan Rubin Castejón

 ‘We cannot afford another year of pay cuts’ Unison workers on strike demand a pay rise

Over a hundred staff and students picketed outside the University of Glasgow’s main gate on Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 September. 

The strike was called after a below-inflation 3 percent pay rise was rejected by Unison, the union representing nearly 500 support staff at the University of Glasgow.  Unison is calling for an “inflation-busting” pay rise of over 2 percent RPI(Retail product index) to protect workers from the cost of living crisis.

As the picket line was gaining momentum on Monday morning, we spoke with Kirsteen Fraser who works in student support: “We’ve lost on thousands of pounds worth of pay rises over the past decade while Anton Muscatelli [Principal of the University of Glasgow] is on over £365,000 per year”. She called on Muscatelli “to lead by example and give us a pay rise”. She stressed that “in this cost of living crisis, people are gonna have to make very difficult decisions between heating, eating and things they want to do in their life” and that “we have members facing losing their homes who are struggling and having to go to foodbanks”.

Paula McKerrow, a library stock assistant and co-secretary of the Unison branch had a more direct message: “We are here to tell the University to cough up some of that plenty of money they’ve got in the bank and share it out and show their gratitude to the staff.” Regarding the news of Unite and UCU might soon go on strike, she said: “We’re hoping that management will see sense considering that our sister unions are balloting just now and there is a very real prospect of collective action within the forthcoming weeks.”

Co-secretary of Unison, Sally Baxter, an international experience manager, characterised the mood of union members as “incredibly disappointed in the University of Glasgow as an employer”. She did however emphasise that “[Unison] are willing to continue working with the University, to continue negotiating in good faith” and that “An employer who genuinely cared for their [workers] welfare would be doing everything to come to the table at this point”.

The week before the strike took place, an email allegedly “intimidating and scaring members from taking [industrial] action” was sent to all staff. Audrey Dickie, a Unison member, and administrative assistant deemed the University’s communication “patronising and condescending.” The union said that “members are shocked, angry and stunned at the University for its actions.”

Students from various political societies within the University were also present to support the striking workers. 

One of the first students to come out and support the picket line was Jaimie O’Rourke, president of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) society at the University of Glasgow. He urged fellow students to “get involved, get out” as he noted: “We are the workers of the future, we are standing for our rights  as well the rights of everyone here.”

Kayz Kurmaly of the Glasgow University Labour Club commented on the perceived inaction of the University management. “We’re supposed to be world changers but how are we changing our own community in terms of making sure the betterment of everyone.” He believes that there will be a breakthrough for unions,  “whether it’s Unison, Unite, UCU, strike after strike it will happen and it will come.”

Further strikes have been called for by Unison on 3-4 October.


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