UNISON strike action at the University of Birmingham – ‘Real Birmingham Heroes’ support staff are demanding better pay, equality, and improved working conditions
Please make a donation towards the branch's strike fund, so we can make sure that the members who are taking strike action can be compensated.
We demand the University of Birmingham: * Gives an above RPI inflation pay increase to all support staff; * Becomes a Living Wage Accredited employer; * Eliminates the gender pay gap by 2020; * Fixes the Support Staff pay spine & allocates a budget for it; * Negotiates with all unions on the joint unions' report on working conditions at the university (available on our website).
Hundreds of caterers, cleaners, security guards and other support staff who are members of UNISON at the University of Birmingham are in dispute with the University of Birmingham and have taken strike action on the University's Open Day on Friday 28th June as they feel let down by the University’s senior management. Unless the University of Birmingham's senior managers are prepared to address our demands, we will have no other choice but to continue to take strike action.
This strike is notable within the sector, as this is the only union branch in the Higher Education to succeed in taking strike action over the 18-19 negotiations. This comes after almost a year of failed negotiations over fair pay, living wage accreditation, closing the gender pay gap, and meaningful negotiations on a joint report of demands written together with the other trade unions on campus, says UNISON today. More than three quarters of the university staff balloted (79 per cent) voted in favour of strike action over last year’s dispute.
Senior managers at the University have persistently refused to negotiate with the unions and instead imposed a below inflation pay rise (2%) on the majority of staff. The University has also been sluggish to address the gulf between men and women’s salaries at the institution, with women earning on average less than 20% than their male counterparts, have refused to accredit, and have only been ready to restructure the pay spine if the unions were prepared to agree on worse conditions such as sick pay, overtime pay, and holiday entitlements.
The first day of action was held on Friday 28th June, on a very sunny day which was also the University's Open Day: food, music, and joyful discussions over everyone’s vision of the University are being held, and prospective students and their parents are finding out about the struggles staff are facing on campus.
In the absence of accreditation, pay at the university could fall below the Real Living Wage, meaning staff would struggle to make ends meet. ‘We already know that members have turned to foodbanks to feed their families’, says UNISON. ‘Many low-paid staff only work 15 hours per week and often hold several jobs to make ends meet. Senior managers seem happy to promote the excellent research undertaken by academics on social inequalities but are failing to see that they are often driving this inequality through the way they treat their own employees’.
Last year, the University set up a new ‘wholly-owned subsidiary company’ called the Edgbaston Park Hotel, and outsourced 40 staff. The Hotel does not recognise unions for new members (meaning that they cannot take strike action, for instance), and new staff are being paid only £8.21/hour. Their contracts are much worse compared to those of the University of Birmingham’s employees. This year, Hotel staff received a 1p/hour pay rise, while the University’s VC earns £444,000/year from the University, is waiting to receive a one-off £80,000 bonus, and also receives £90,000/year as Chair of the academic and academic related staff’s USS pensions scheme.