UNISON members at Liverpool University have voted overwhelmingly to reject attacks on their pay, which could lead to significant strike action. UNISON and other trade unions have been campaigning against proposed changes to contracts for its members. Negotiations with the employer were difficult, and resulted in both sides using ACAS to facilitate discussions before balloting members on final proposals.
The proposals affect key support staff who provide services such as catering, cleaning and building management. These services keep the University running and the students safe.
The staff are already amongst the lowest paid section of the workforce, earning an average of only £14,000 per year. Now, Liverpool University wants to reduce their rates of pay for working weekends, nights, open days, etc.
The proposed cuts to UNISON members’ salaries are being made at a time when the University currently has a surplus of £9. 2 million and receives income of a further £150 million for research. A recent survey of current students revealed that 85% of them thought the service they had from staff who they see regularly – a group which includes many of the staff at risk – was excellent.
Liverpool University is a member of the Fairness for Liverpool Commission and has signed a charter that “fairness will be at the heart of all decisions” but UNISON sees nothing fair in this decision to attack the lowest paid.
Staff stand to lose a significant chunk of their income. For example, Kitchen Porters will lose £1,800 every year, Caterers will lose nearly £1,000 a year and the Technicians that look after animals on behalf of the University at Leahurst will lose £1,500 a year.
UNISON’s head of Higher education Donna Rowe-Merriman said: “Students and parents will not be prepared to pay the current university fees for a third rate service at Liverpool University. Our members provide an excellent service to students. In our view the experienced friendly caring and safe service that students receive is one that should be preserved by a key employer on Merseyside.”
Maria Moss UNISON Regional Organiser said: ““It’s a scandal and the University should be ashamed of themselves for singling out the lowest paid workers to have their wages cut even further. It is a disgrace that this is happening in a city where the Mayor of Liverpool is taking a stand against poverty pay, yet Liverpool University, a high profile local employer, choose to attack their dedicated staff who live and work here.”
“UNISON members have been treated shabbily and are being forced to consider taking industrial action. This is never an action we take lightly, but our members are incensed by the University’s confrontational approach to industrial relations. It is unfortunate that this is bound to affect thousands of students who have paid significant amounts of money to attend this University.”