University support staff across the Eastern region are taking part in a national ballot on strike action over higher education pay involving 30,000 workers across the UK.
Staff from the world-famous University of Cambridge started voting on strikes last week, along with their colleagues from the universities of Bedfordshire, Essex, East Anglia, Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Anglia Ruskin University and Norwich University of the Arts, after more than two thirds of UK higher education staff rejected offers on pay and pensions during the summer.
The pay deal from university employers would mean a below-inflation rise of just 1.8% for most staff despite bumper rises for vice-chancellors, including a 20% rise at the University of Essex and extra 11% for the University of Cambridge boss.
Many staff are also voting on action over proposed changes to their pension scheme, which UNISON warns will leave them paying more.
Pension reforms first introduced in 2011 were already likely to leave staff tens of thousands out of pocket. These new proposals mean staff have to pay in more and more just to retain their already reduced benefits.
UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “Yet again university employers are fobbing off higher education staff with a below-inflation wage increase and a cut to pensions.
“Vice chancellors’ and other senior managers’ pay packets continue to swell. But they won’t stump up for all the other staff who make universities world class, despite being pushed hard for a decent pay rise.
“Their mediocre offer will do nothing to help staff, especially the lowest paid who are struggling to get by on poverty wages.”
UNISON and other HE unions are pushing for a rise to meet inflation plus 3% or a minimum increase of £3,349 to catch up for a decade of below inflation pay awards.
Both ballots opened on Monday 9 September and close on Wednesday 30 October 2019.