Up to 6,000 higher education workers in the Unison union struck on Monday and Tuesday at 17 universities in England.
Workers across England and Scotland voted to reject by 82 percent a pay offer for 2023-24 worth between 5 percent and 8 percent.
The workers involved include cleaners, IT technicians, administrators, library staff and others supporting student learning.
Unison head of education Mike Short said, “University staff are still waiting for a decent pay offer from universities and now have little option but to escalate their action.
“Support staff play a crucial role in helping students through university, but they’ve endured years of real terms pay cuts.
“Bills and other costs continue to rise and some staff are leaving the sector for better-paid jobs elsewhere.
Action hit the University of Gloucestershire, University of St Mark & St John, University of the West of England, Leeds Trinity University, Arts University of Bournemouth, Solent University, City University of London, University of Chichester, University of Brighton, University of Bristol, University of Bedfordshire, University of Leeds, Soas University of London, Liverpool Hope University, University of Liverpool, Manchester Metro University, University of Winchester and University Of Sussex.
Workers at University of Leeds also walked out on Friday of last week, and at the University of Bedfordshire strikes also took place on Wednesday of this week.
A series of strikes also took place in Scotland at Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow School of Art, University of Dundee and University of Glasgow.
Support staff at the University of Leeds in Unison reached 50 days on strike last week in their long-running pay dispute.
The union said it “believes reaching 50 days of industrial action at the university is not a milestone to be celebrated. But this highlights senior managers’ unwillingness to engage in productive talks.”
Bitter fruits of Royal Mail deal
Royal Mail bosses are taking the leaders of the CWU union for fools.
The firm is on the rampage in the giant mail centres at the heart of the business. It is imposing new shift patterns and labelling many workers as “surplus”—all without the agreement of the union.
In this way experienced staff can be replaced by agency staff, and terms and conditions destroyed. Royal Mail is bound by union agreements to find surplus workers suitable new roles and to do so without reducing their pay or grade.
The firm has for weeks been in negotiations with the union about the interpretation of this agreement—and it was thought that a deal had been agreed.
But Royal Mail has now reneged on all of that and decided to simply impose the changes it wanted. And the picture in delivery offices isn’t much better.
There Royal Mail is everyday missing its letter delivery obligations and is imposing even more “revisions”—unagreed changes to working patterns.
Royal Mail is treating the ending of the recent strikes on the basis of a rotten deal as a sign of weakness. And the company last week piled in with more reasons to think that.
Luke Elgar, a member of the union’s postal executive was sacked last week. His future now rests on the review procedure headed by Lord Faulkner.
As the bosses’ assault in mail centres gathered steam, the union finally decided to respond. In a “Letter To Branches” bulletin last week it said, “All of the CWU efforts are concentrated on concluding a negotiated settlement.
“But in advance of this we would ask you [union reps] to engage directly with all members, to determine how best to put pressure on RMG [Royal Mail] to do the right thing.
“The Postal Executive will support all requests for ballots for strike action.”
Of course, the union is right to signal willingness to strike over the issue. But turning local grievances into a national dispute would be the best way to hit back.
Anti-union laws used to stop Scottish lecturers’ strike push
Scotland’s colleges have used British anti-union laws to stop lecturers from extending their industrial action in a long-running dispute over pay.
Public sector colleges refused a trade union request to extend the legal mandate for the ongoing industrial action.
This is despite the Scottish government stating that it opposes the anti-union laws and does not wish to see them implemented in Scotland.
This forced a re-ballot of EIS-Fela union members.
Workers voted for strikes but very narrowly missed the turnout threshold under the laws.
Members of the EIS-Fela union have been undertaking industrial action short of strike since May 2023 and began strike action earlier this month. Despite discussions between the union, college bodies and the minister for further education, there has been no new deal.
Lecturers continued a national rolling programme of strikes this week.
Action was set for Monday to Wednesday this week at Glasgow Clyde College, Fife College and Dundee & Angus College.
Edinburgh College lecturers are currently on strike five days per week. The union branch said, “Members are resolute and determined to get a end to the threat of redundancies and to reinstate Kevin Scally.”
Glasgow City college workers are still out against mass redundancies.