We’re pleased to announce the results of our strike ballot over the 2023-24 pay increase:
74.5% of members voting, voted in favour of strike action, on a turnout of 56.3%
A massive thanks to everyone who voted and everyone who encouraged others to vote. As we know, the rules are set to make it extremely difficult for union branches to hit the 50% turnout threshold, so we’re pleased that once again, our branch has done so.
This is consistent with the nature of our branch, where we emphasise the idea of the collective rather than the individual. We can win so much more as a united group of trade union members than we ever can as individuals and our members are very good at recognising that.
We achieved a legal strike mandate alongside 12 other university branches, and nine others have a mandate already, having balloted earlier in the year. This means that 22 universities, including Sussex, now have UNISON branches able to take strike action over pay.
Members will remember that thanks to strike action during 2022 and earlier this year, we have achieved a pay rise of between 5% and 7%, depending on grade, which was paid in part from February with the rest due this month, so you should notice a very slight increase in pay at the end of August, but you don’t need me to tell you that these increases are nowhere near what’s necessary to keep wages up with inflation. Everything is still going up, with the promised end to higher prices not yet materialising.
UCEA, the employers’ organisation responsible for our nationally negotiated pay has insisted that there’s no more money available. They have had recent talks with UCU, asking what it would take for UCU to call off their marking and assessment boycott (MAB), but this appears to have come to nothing. UCEA are saying that universities have got no money and UCU are saying that they have. There’s a much more nuanced and complicated reality than this.
Our position is that some universities have got some money, (in a few cases, a lot of money), but many are struggling under the OfS funding regime, dictated by the government, which has refused to increase the real value of tuition fees, meaning that the £9,250 fee, representing the vast majority of our university’s income, is now worth closer to £6,000. The picture locally looks grim without a significant rise in government-funded income soon, and obviously we want that as grant, not higher fees and debt loaded onto students.
However, the fact that universities such as ours are not resourced properly should not stop us demanding decent levels of pay. The University is already seeing elements of a recruitment crisis because people don’t want to work here and that’s without the reputational damage caused by the very public display of compulsory redundancies and UCU members’ courageous resistance to it.
(We understand if the University wants to save money through voluntary severance or even redundancy, but we can’t accept that compulsory redundancies of academics or support staff are necessary or proportionate.)
We have to campaign for better pay, in what is still very much a national dispute, and we’ll do that alongside all other higher education branches, but especially those with a legal strike mandate.
If UCEA don’t think again and offer university workers a pay increase that reflects the cost of living, and demand funding from the government to cover this where necessary, we plan to take industrial action at the start of the academic year, in October. This will be an escalating campaign, with further action planned, ideally alongside other campus trade unions.
We’ll provide more details of action planned nearer the time.