UNIVERSITY staff are threatening strike action due to concerns over pay.
In a joint open letter, union chairs at Oxford Brookes University say that the lowest paid staff at the higher education institution are ‘routinely having to use food banks’.
The letter, addressed to Brookes vice-chancellor Alistair Fitt, concerns pay rises ‘not keeping pace’ with inflation.
Published jointly by Alan Reeve and Simon Hogg, the chairs of University and College Union, and Unison, at Brookes, the letter states: “First of all, we welcome the fact that the university has adopted the Oxford Living Wage, which will benefit the lowest paid staff, and is something both unions have been demanding for a considerable time.
“However, as you will know, the three per cent pay offer by the national employer fails significantly to address the real terms reduction in our salaries over a number of years.
“We calculate that on average all staff whose salaries are nationally negotiated are now worth at least 20 per cent less than they would have been if pay rises had simply kept pace with inflation over the last 15 years.
“This situation is, of course, worsening – with inflation for this year alone estimated to reach 11 per cent.
“Can we remind you that many staff at Brookes do not benefit from an incremental increase in salary every year, and we do not accept, in any event, that increments represent a real terms pay rise per se.
“Some of the lowest paid staff at Brookes are now routinely having to use food banks simply to survive, and this is before the massive increase in fuel costs in the autumn.”
The letter adds: “Unions do not ballot for strike action on a whim. We only do this when all other measures have failed.
“We do not do this, as your note implies, to ‘disrupt the education and university experience of students’.
“We do it because we have no other choice. And we do it to improve the quality of the student experience – an underpaid workforce will not deliver the best quality of teaching and support, as we are sure you can appreciate.
“You say you are disappointed that we have chosen to ask colleagues to take the legal and appropriate action to achieve a better pay settlement, but we are disappointed that as our vice-chancellor, you do not seem to have put the case of your staff to the national employer for an acceptable pay deal – something both unions have asked you to do over the last two years.”
This story was written by Liam Rice, he joined the team in 2019 as a multimedia reporter.
Liam covers politics, travel and transport. He occasionally covers Oxford United.
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