University support workers on strike. Photo: Hugo Pierre
University support workers on strike. Photo: Hugo Pierre

Mary Finch, Unison rep (personal capacity)

Support staff at universities across the country are being balloted for strike action again after another totally inadequate pay offer.

Unison members at eleven universities took strike action over last year’s pay increase, which was an insulting 1.5%. Clearly, it’s had an effect. We’ve been offered 3% this year – far short of inflation, but still significantly higher than any pay rise we’ve had in years.

Unison members literally keep universities open. The union represents all non-academic staff, from security, to catering, to admissions, to libraries. At my workplace, King’s College London, our four days of strike action shut down entire sections of the university. Some libraries were effectively closed and we had reports of senior management forced to run front desks!

At King’s, our strike action also won us an improved offer on London weighting. The fact that management conceded so quickly shows how much more we could win with determined action for a better national pay offer.

The confidence of Unison members nationally has increased following the first round of strike action. 83% voted in favour of industrial action over the new pay offer, and it’s likely any future strike days will fall during freshers and welcome weeks in September. Standing shoulder to shoulder with striking academic staff in UCU, we can shut universities down and win a better pay rise.

All workers need an inflation-proof pay rise. A coordinated strike of Unison members in the public sector – universities, schools, local government and the NHS – would be a massive step forward.