Universities across the UK will be brought to a standstill by strike action later this month unless a row over pay can be resolved in the next two weeks.
The University and College Union (UCU), UNISON and Unite trade unions announced on Wednesday that their members working in higher education will walk out on Thursday 31 October in an increasingly bitter row over pay.
Staff have been offered a pay rise of just 1% this year, which means they have suffered a pay cut of 13% in real terms since October 2008.
The squeeze on staff pay comes at a time when pay and benefits for university leaders increased, on average, by more than £5,000 in 2011-12, with the average pay and pensions package for vice-chancellors hitting almost £250,000.
UNISON head of higher education, Jon Richards, said:
“Our members are upset and angry – this measly 1% offer is simply not good enough. The work of support staff is essential for the smooth running of universities and they play a vital role supporting students, but many are struggling to survive on low pay.
“The gap between prices and pay has widened since this government came to power and trying to feed a family and heat a home is a daily worry. The fact that staff are willing to take strike action shows how desperate they feel. The employers should take note and come back with a more realistic offer.”
The cumulative operating surplus in the higher education sector is now over £1 billion and many higher education institutions have built up cash reserves. Overall staff costs in higher education, as a proportion of income, have fallen from 58% in 2001/02, to 55.5% in 2011/12.