University of Birmingham UNISON Press release
Support staff at University of Birmingham UNISON are due to take further strike action on Monday and Tuesday next week in their long-running industrial dispute with the University over fair pay, equality, and improved working conditions.
The strike action follows an intervention by 7 of the city’s 9 MPs who wrote to the University last week about the dispute. MPs Preet Gill, Jack Dromey, Liam Byrne, Roger Godsiff, Richard Burden, Steve McCabe and Jess Phillips jointly signed the letter, which called on the University to do more to be a “world class employer” and emphasised the “moral imperative” of the institution to use its financial resources to improve the situation of struggling staff.
In particular the MPs highlighted the University’s refusal to pay a backdated pay settlement and to move publicly towards real living wage accreditation, steps UNISON have highlighted as key to end the dispute.
UNISON Branch Secretary Mike Moore points to the powerful stories shared by UNISON members during the dispute to explain why the branch is continuing with strike action –
“The University have failed to realise the strength of feeling about this and the extent to which our members need a proper pay rise. One of our members in particular addressed a letter directly to the University’s Vice Chancellor last month. Telling him that she has to work two jobs to and often spends the entire weekend without sleep to balance family commitments and night work, she challenged him to try and live on the same salary for just a short period of time. We delivered the letter on her behalf four weeks ago but still haven’t received a reply”.
The UNISON branch has taken three days of strike action up until now in pursuit of an improved pay offer and living wage accreditation as well as seeking clear commitments from the University on the gender pay gap, a jointly written unions’ report with demands on working conditions, and the revision of a pay spine that UNISON contend is increasingly uncompetitive with other similar employers.
On Monday morning the branch is taking its campaign to the streets of the city centre, with members handing out leaflets to local residents from 8am and a rally planned at 12pm in Victoria Square. This will be followed by a day of pickets on campus on Tuesday, where the branch will be focusing their pickets on the University-owned Edgbaston Park Hotel.
UNISON highlight the outsourcing of staff to the wholly-owned subsidiary company last year as a key factor in worsening industrial relations on campus, as well as a key reason why members are pushing real living wage accreditation as a barrier to future outsourcing as well as a guarantee of future pay rises for the lowest paid.
In the last few days leading up to the September strike casual student workers are also seeking support for a petition addressed to the University’s Vice Chancellor, highlighting delays, mispayments, over-taxation, and a lack of positive engagement by the University with its student workers. Casual workers were asked by the University to work in place of striking staff during UNISON’s strike in July, with the union claiming that this put them at risk of injury due to the University calling them in to work without any prior health and safety training.
Notes to editors
- Past strike days in the dispute included the 28th June, 16th July and 17th July, all involved pickets around the University’s Edgbaston campus. Videos from the strike day can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k91FC6iw7e4&list=PLPbpPRNAGza2EGOdB50_LT_Il4PDY36NK
- The Challenge Letter from a member to the VC can be found at: org.uk/challenge
- A full copy of the letter from Birmingham MPs to the VC can be found on at: org.uk/mps-letter
- The students’ letter can be found at: https://www.change.org/p/university-of-birmingham-university-of-birmingham-student-workers-open-letter-to-the-vice-chancellor
- Strike breaking: https://uobunison.org.uk/strikebreaking-worklink
- VC David Eastwood is one of the highest paid VCs in the country, earning £444,000/year as vice chancellor, £90,000 as Chair of the USS pensions scheme, and benefitting from a one-off incentive bonus of £80,000. 108 other senior managers are paid more than £100,000/year: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/finance/UoB-Annual-Accounts-2017%E2%80%9318.pdf
- Further information – UNISON Branch Secretary Mike Moore 07964926949