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HE workers in Unison build pay battles + round-up

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Also news of Fawley refinery, Beis, colleges and more
Issue 2833
University strike: King's College pickets with placards such as 'If our pay doesn't rise we will'

Pickets at King’s College last week (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Workers in Higher Education have unleashed a strong programme of strikes as part of their battle for decent pay.

Unison union members in 19 institutions struck last week. Some took one day of action, while others walked out for two or three days.

The strikes included workers in facilities management, administration, security, IT, and libraries. For most of the institutions taking part, this ​is the second wave of industrial action this term.

Their walkouts follow a series of strikes in September and October. Workers are demanding a pay rise in line with inflation, yet bosses offered just 3 percent for most Higher Education workers, with some lower-paid staff offered up to 9 percent.This week, workers at City University, School of Oriental and African Studies and the University of Brighton were all due to walk out on Wednesday.

And strikers at the University of Leeds were also planning to continue their strike for three days from Monday of this week.

It’s a hugely positive development that workers in the Unison and UCU unions have joined forces on picket lines in this phase of action. They were also due to join the UCU rally in London on Wednesday.

Workers at a further 51 institutions are re-balloting for action, with the vote opening on Wednesday of this week and closing on 21 December. A strong Yes vote will stand strikers in good stead to ramp up the action in the new year.

University of Sheffield international college

After negotiations with the bosses came to nothing, education workers at the University of Sheffield international college began a three-day strike on Monday.

Management originally offered a 5 percent rise, and then 6 percent. Workers in the UCU union rejected this offer, and took to picket lines. They unfurled a  banner that said “all aboard the strike train.”

This strike is the first ever strike at a private higher education provider in Britain. UCU branch chair Sam Morecroft said, “Our members have made clear time and time again we are not going to accept a significant real terms pay cut.”

  • Workers at Furness College in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, plan to strike for three days over pay.

Some 85 percent of workers in the UCU union voted to strike earlier this month.

This comes as the bosses offered workers just a 2.5 percent pay award and some money in the form of one-off payments.

Workers are set to strike on 6,7, and 15 December. They also plan action short of a strike from 8 December until 13 May next year.

And workers at Manchester college are also balloting to strike over pay.

The UCU members have already taken eight days of action. But now, due to anti-union laws, workers must update their mandate to strike. The current ballot will run until 12 December.


Workers at Britain’s biggest oil refinery started the second week of a 14-day strike on Monday.

Almost 100 boilermakers, welders, pipefitters, mechanical fitters and scaffolders at the Fawley plant in Hampshire are taking part. They are in the Unite and GMB unions and taking on the Altrad, Bilfinger and Rhyal firms and their client ExxonMobil.

  • Around 146 Unite union members at  Petrofac Repsol in the North Sea are set to strike on 8 and 9 December. Petrofac BP workers have also backed industrial action in a ballot

Workers accept Beis deal

Outsourced workers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have called off planned strikes after an improved pay offer.

Catering and hospitality workers in the PCS union had been set to strike on Wednesday of this week. But the PCS union said bosses at outsourcer Aramark had agreed to pay them a 12 percent pay increase—just shy of the current RPI rate of inflation.

Meanwhile, security guards, post and porterage workers, employed in the same central London building by outsourcer ISS, suspended planned action. Bosses offered some health and safety improvements.

These include an extra five days sick leave for people with coronavirus, and the provision of testing kits.

  • Legal advisers and court associates in Wales and the south west and north west of England are set to strike on Friday and Sunday of next week and Monday 5 December. More are also set to strike at courts in other parts of England and Wales on Saturday of next week.

And there are set to be further strikes in north east England and the Midlands on 9, 11 and 12 December. Some workers who had voted to strike previously are also set to strike on 10 December.

The workers, members of the PCS union, are fighting after the rollout of a computer system called Common Platform that increases workload and stress, and slashes jobs.

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