Week long Unison strike at Leeds University after 25% salary losses against inflation

“Is it really that terrible?” were the words of Leeds University Vice Chancellor Simone Buitendijk to students occupying her office a month ago in response to questions about the pay and conditions of university workers.

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

It was also the headline on the leaflet Unison members were handing out explaining why they were on strike. Earning the same amount every month as a grade 5 salary earns in a year (Unison represents staff up to grade 6), she’s clearly out touch with the pressures facing Unison members at the university, some of whom have to rely on food banks.

Over the last 13 years support staff have lost 25% of their salaries against inflation. And faced with a 1.5% pay offer for the current year they have been part of the Unison strikes across 10 universities this year, some if which have been coordinated with UCU before voting to take action this week.

Insultingly, the university tried to settle the dispute by offering vouchers, but only to those on grade 5 and before below. When this was rejected university manager decided they were going to give them anyway.

On the picket lines, conversations have been dominated by the various other strikes taking place, including the RMT. There has been a real feeling that many more workers will need to take strike action to secure pay increases to keep up with inflation and a desire to coordinate action.

It was reported at Friday’s rally by a regional Unison official that at meetings of other Unison branches they had asked about the strike at Leeds University, and then asked “can we do that too?”

As well as continuing the fight on this year’s pay claim, strikers were also gearing up to fight over next year’s pay claim as inflation continues to soar. There was a hope that many more university support staff will be able to successfully ballot for action and coordinate that with UCU members and other workers.

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