2,000 workers at 11 Scottish universities balloted for strike action

Union has previously rejected a pay offer amounting to 3.1% for some members.

2,000 workers at 11 Scottish universities balloted for strike action iStock

Cleaners, janitors, estates staff and technicians at 11 Scottish universities are being balloted for strike action over pay, Unite has confirmed on Tuesday.

Around 2,000 members of staff at the universities of Aberdeen, Abertay, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, Napier, St Andrew’s, Strathclyde, Glasgow Caledonian University and Glasgow School of Art will be involved.

It is the first time in Scotland that Unite has balloted simultaneously across this number of universities.

The ballot opens from September 27 and closes on October 21. 

The Unite members are part of a UK nationwide pay dispute involving the University and College Employers Association (UCEA). 

Unite has previously rejected a pay offer amounting to 3.1% for some members.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary said: “The pay offer on the table from the UCEA is completely unacceptable at a time when inflation is 12.3%. 

“The pay inequalities across Scottish universities are outrageous in a sector which is totally dependent on public money. 

“No university principal is facing a cost of living crisis but our members certainly are and this offer which represents a massive pay cut can only make that worse. They will have our full support in this fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.”

Peter Mathieson, University of Edinburgh principal, is understood to have an annual salary around £363,000, while Anton Muscatelli earns around £368,000 as principal of Glasgow University, according to the latest financial reports.

Alison MacLean, Unite industrial officer, added: “The UCEA has refused to reopen pay negotiations despite Unite and all trade unions arguing that they must come back to the table. 

“A number of Scottish universities are also recognising that the offer is so poor they are encouraging a new one to be made to the workforce. 

“It’s the first time ever that Unite is simultaneously balloting for strike action across so many Scottish universities but that’s a testament to the anger our members feel right now.”

Unite members at the University of Dundee are also on strike action in a separate dispute concerning pension cuts.

Raj Jethwa, UCEA’s chief executive said: “UCEA represented 145 independent higher education institutions from across the four nations of the UK at the 2022-23 New JNCHES bargaining table.

“They have done their best to support jobs and staff in very difficult circumstances and against a backdrop of significant cost increases, with most experiencing falling income in real terms.

“UCEA is concerned for those on lower incomes, who are disproportionately impacted by inflation. That is why the 2022-23 New JNCHES pay award included an uplift of up to 9% for those on the lowest points of the pay spine, and why UCEA worked with employers to implement the uplift at the earliest opportunity.”

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