University staff walk out in dispute over pay

Hundreds of staff at the University of Leeds, including cleaners, security workers​,​ administrators and librarians are striking this week over a long-running pay dispute, says UNISON.

More than 500 employees are taking part in five days of action which began yesterday – 20 June – and ends on Friday 24 June. Strikes will take place across the university’s Woodhouse campus, the union says.

The university says it has been “working constructively” with trades unions to improve employment terms and support its lowest paid workers.

But UNISON says employees are angry that despite rejecting ​the 1.5% pay offer made last August, managers ​ignored ​staff protests and imposed the increase.

UNISON adds that even with this increase, low-paid employees are ​still taking home less than £18,000 a year.

It says years of under​-investment in higher education, coupled with wage freezes, have kept staff pay artificially low.

And it notes that workers want an across-the-board £1,250 increase to help them cope with soaring prices and inflation.

UNISON head of education, Mike Short, said: “Striking is always the last option, but staff have been left with no other choice.

“For years, university workers have endured what amount to pay cuts. ​Yet, these are the people who made sure students’ learning was uninterrupted throughout the pandemic

“But enough’s enough​.​ ​University employees simply can’t afford to live on poverty wages or accept woeful, insulting pay offers. University managers must make a better offer to give a fair pay increase to all staff.”

A University of Leeds spokesman responded: “We recognise these are difficult times for many of our staff and students, as they are for much of society, and we are taking positive action.

“Even before the rise in global cost of living pressures, the university was working constructively with our trades unions to improve employment terms and support our lowest paid staff.

“This includes moving many staff from fixed-term to permanent contracts, reviewing how we employ hourly paid and casual staff, and continuing to meet the voluntary living wage.

“At a national level, the sector’s nationally negotiated pay offer provides for a far greater uplift for staff on the lowest pay scales – up to 9% in the coming year.

“While the university cannot support the industrial action, we know our colleagues are uniformly committed to our students’ education and experience, and do not enter into any such action lightly.”