Members of Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, employed in higher education, are demanding that university management returns to the negotiating table in order to provide a fair settlement on pay and conditions.

The demand to return to the negotiating table comes immediately following the result of Unite’s ballot for industrial action, which was called following the collapse of pay talks.

Turnout not met

Members voted by nearly three to one (73 per cent) in favour of strike action but they are being prevented from taking strike action due to the anti-trade union laws which require a 50 per cent turnout threshold before industrial action can occur.

Unite is seeking:

  • A pay rise in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI) plus three per cent or a minimum increase of £3,349 (whichever is the greater).
  • A minimum wage for all staff of £10 an hour.
  • The abolition of precarious employment practices which are often used by university employers.
  • A reduction of excessive workloads and the implementation of stress management systems.
  • The establishment of a 35 hour working week.
  • Action to close the gender and ethnic pay gap.

Long hours

A recent survey of Unite members found over 80 per cent of respondents reported that they regularly work beyond their contracted hours and over half have considered quitting their jobs in the past 12 months.

Members angry

Unite national officer Siobhan Endean said: “The industrial action ballot demonstrates that Unite members in universities are angry because of low pay and poor conditions.

“Unite members in higher education are essential to the functioning of these institutions, they provide much needed support to students, ensuring their accommodation, laboratories, libraries and lecture halls are safe, clean and ready for learning. 

“University employers must return to the negotiating table and present an improved offer, if they want to avoid existing staff voting with their feet and leaving the sector, accompanied by a huge fall in morale which will see productivity collapse.

 “The only reason that our members are not taking strike action is because they are prevented from doing so by the pernicious, anti-trade union laws.

 Unite will now be holding detailed discussions with its local branches to consider the possibility of holding fresh industrial action ballots to secure a 35 hour week at individual institutions, oppose outsourcing, prevent compression of the pay spine and defend workers’ pensions.”


Notes to editors:

 University staff balloted for industrial action over falling living standards

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.


  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey..