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Interventionism is suddenly all the rage with the Westminster Conservative government, and higher education is feeling the impact as new policies and legislation are brought to bear on the sector, writes Johnny Rich, Chief Executive of Push and of the Engineering Professors’ Council.
Technicians, laboratory assistants, administrators and facilities management staff working in universities across the UK have been balloted for industrial action in protest over a 1.1 per cent pay offer.
The Unite union representing them said the ballot of around 9,000 of its members follows years of below inflation pay rises which have seen staff pay shrink by up to 16 per cent since 2012, while university heads and senior managers have "enjoyed bumper pay hikes" of around 5.1 per cent on average.
Unite is urging employers to get back around the table to negotiate an improved pay offer to avert potential strike action which it said would cause "mass disruption" to students at the start of the new autumn term.
The union is also calling for action on the gender pay gap and increasing use of zero hour contracts in the sector.
Mike McCartney, Unite national officer said: “The last thing our members want is to take strike action but after years of below inflation pay rises they have been left with no choice.
“Years of below inflation pay rises has seen staff pay shrink by between 15 and 16 per cent since 2012. The squeeze on staff salaries comes when the pay of university leaders and senior managers has increased by an average of more than five per cent, with the average pay package for vice chancellors standing at £272,000.
“The employers need to start recognising the critical role our members play in keeping the country’s biggest and best universities running. Without them things would grind to a halt.
“We are urging the employers to get back around the table to negotiate an improved pay offer; one that recognises the vital contribution our members make. We want to see an end to the blatant double standards that have allowed vice chancellors’ pay to rise four times faster than the pay for most staff.”
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