From education to employment

Higher education survey reveals financial plight of sector’s workers


Unite demands 2023/24 national pay award improved as unions meet with UCEA

A survey of more than 1,000 higher education workers shows that staff across the sector are in desperate need of a fair pay rise, Unite, the UK’s leading union, said today (Wednesday).

The survey comes as Unite, as part of the New Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (New JNCHES), meets with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA).

Unite will warn the UCEA that the imposed 2023/24 pay award of five per cent for most workers is not sufficient to enable staff to cope with the cost of living crisis.

The deal is a significant real terms pay cut given that when it was imposed in March, the real rate of inflation, RPI, stood at 13.5 per cent.

The survey of administrative, technical and estate staff revealed that in the last year eight per cent skipped meals and 32 per cent cut back on heating their homes. More than four fifths of respondents (82 per cent) said they are worse off now than they were 18 months ago.

Nearly half (48 per cent) had no money or less than £50 left at the end of each month. Over half (52 per cent) are worried about rent and mortgage payments if their pay doesn’t rise, while 72 per cent are worried about paying for essentials such as food, petrol and heating for the same reason.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:

 “Unite will be making it clear to UCEA that the 2023/24 pay deal is entirely inadequate and must be improved.

“Anger is growing across the sector as more and more workers struggle to keep their heads above water. The UCEA needs to understand that if a better offer is not forthcoming, Unite will be doing everything it can to help higher education workers take strike action for fair pay.”

Unite currently has mandates at nine higher education institutions for strike action. Unite’s national industrial sector committee for education will meet in early January to discuss progress at the New JNCHES and the potential for further industrial action within the sector.

Unite national officer Andrew Murray said:

 “The result of this survey shows that workers across higher education are still mired in the cost of living crisis and will remain so unless pay is improved. This will inevitably worsen the recruitment and retention crisis facing the sector and increase industrial unrest amongst those staff that remain.

“Unite calls on the UCEA to heed what the unions are saying and put forward a better deal.”

The pay claim put forward by the higher education unions, including Unite, on the New JNCHES for 2023/24, is RPI plus 2 per cent or £4,000, whichever is greater.

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