Why I’m striking today

on-strike-sign1This Thursday, all three of the main higher education trades unions are taking, for the first time, co-ordinated strike action over pay.

As we all know, living costs over the last four to five years have rocketed in comparison to pay, meaning that wages have significantly reduced in real terms. In higher education, the situation is no different. Assistant and academic staff on the single salary spine have seen their pay cut by 13% since 2008 against inflation.

This is unacceptable in any context. However, when you take into account the fact that Vice-Chancellors’ pay has risen sharply – with half now paid over £242,000, 4,000 HE staff continue to be below the Living Wage, a gender pay gap in HE that is greater than any other profession in the public sector and that £1.1 billion was made in surpluses by HE institutions in the last year alone, the situation is outrageous.

HE unions are standing together this Thursday – in Cambridge, where I work, and nationwide – in saying loudly and clearly: enough is enough. This situation cannot go on. Our universities are not poor. They can afford to start making up the shortfall experienced by those decent, hard-working cleaners, librarians, lecturers, clerical staff, cooks and waiting staff who operate behind the scenes but contribute a huge deal to make our universities the world-class institutions they are.

Richard Johnson is a Labour councillor and works at the Cambridge University Library