From 7am this morning, University of Salford staff were manning picket lines at a number of sites in protest against proposed pay cuts. University employers originally offered no rise in pay at all this year, before offering 1% which still amounts to a 1.8% cut, with inflation running at 2.8%.
Outside the Maxwell Building, Bernie Maguire, UCU Branch President for Salford University, told the Salford Star…
"Since 2008 we've seen pay rises that add up to a 13% net reduction in pay for university employees, which is the biggest cut in pay of any sector in any industry in the UK. All we're asking for is a standstill rise and they won't even give us that.
"Every university in the country is out on strike today, backed by UNISON, Unite and UCU" he added "At Salford we've had thirteen rounds of redundancies in the last three years, and they've gone over target on student numbers which means staff are having to work harder for less pay."
On the Allerton picket line on Frederick Road at first light, pickets were turning away building vehicles…
"We're here because our staff are sick to death of having a pay cut for the last four years on top of redundancies" said Michelle Barnes of UNISON, which represents the lowest paid workers at the University "We're sick of it and now we need to get a decent pay rise. Salford University is carrying on with its masterplan, building big shiny buildings when it should be taking care of its staff – our students aren't interested in big shiny buildings they just want a decent education."
Not only is the University of Salford ploughing £millions into its `estate', it's also taking care of its highest paid staff, with Freedom of Information requests revealing thousands of pounds spent on `expenses' for heads of schools, including hotel stays (in Salford?), taxi fares running into hundreds of pounds for one trip, meals, and even Itunes spending.
Meanwhile, Salford University also spent over £140,000 hounding former lecturer Gary Duke in English and American courts for its failed libel bid.
"Universities nationally have got over £1billion in reserves and I'm sure that Salford has some of that" said Neil Linsky, UNISON's regional organiser on the picket line this morning "My understanding is that they underspent their budget last year too, so they have got money in the bank. The average Vice Chancellor's salary package is almost £250,000 a year, which is higher than the Prime Minister's salary, so they do pay themselves well."
Since 2002, the pay of university bosses has also increased year on year, on average, at double the rate of staff pay, while the pay ratio of the lowest to highest paid people is 1:19 across higher education, a gap that has widened from 1:15 from a report in 2010.
Feelings are so inflamed in the sector that today's is the first ever national strike by all three trade unions over pay.
"The National Union of Students is in support because they know that to get a good education they need staff that are well paid themselves and support them" added Neil Linsky "But it's not just about a fight against low pay in the university, it's a fight about low pay in the community as well.
"We want the community to get a living wage, not a minimum wage, and the trade union movement is very supportive in getting everybody's wages rising, and making sure everyone gets a decent education, not just in universities but in schools and colleges too."