Staff at both Sheffield universities have launched a two-day strike today over pay and conditions.
Disgruntled staff have been picketing this morning at Firth Court and the Hicks building at the University of Sheffield, and at the Owen, Cantor and Collegiate buildings at Sheffield Hallam.
The decision comes in response to an offer from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association of a 1.1 per cent pay rise – an increase of 0.1 per cent on their previous offer for higher education workers.
Jointly the unions are calling for a five per cent pay rise amid claims that staff pay has been slashed by 15 per cent in the last five years.
Meanwhile pay and benefits for university leaders increased by over six per cent in the last year – meaning pay and pension packages for vice-chancellors has rocketed to around £270,000.
If no agreement is reached in the coming weeks, members have agreed to further strike action targeting open days and graduation ceremonies.
Mike McCartney, national education officer for Unite said: “We are calling on Unite members to reject the offer on the table. They have seen their pay slashed over recent years, while many university bosses are raking in more than the prime minister.
“Clearly there is unfairness in the pay system and that hurts our members who are mainly technicians, porters and cleaning staff without whom universities would not function. These are the workers who are the key to providing a good student experience.”
UCU members will also attend a rally at Sheffield Cathedral from 1.30pm on Thursday, with speakers including UCU president elect Rob Goodfellow.
Staff will also begin working to contract from Wednesday, which means they will refuse to work overtime, set additional work, or undertake any voluntary duties like covering timetabled classes for absent colleagues.
Mr McCartney added: “Sadly the UCEA employers have been totally intransigent and continue to refuse to increase their pay offer. This 1.1 per cent offer is pretty paltry. Higher education staff are dedicated, hard-working professionals, they feel insulted by the offer.
“We are advising our members to support UCU members locally before work, during lunch time and at recognised breaks in their action this week.
“Their fight is our fight and we stand with them in solidarity, determined to win a better, more just, pay deal.”
In addition to the walk outs, the UCU has urged its members to “begin working to contract” from 25 May, meaning lecturers will refuse to work overtime, set additional work or undertake any voluntary duties such as covering timetabled classes for absent colleagues.