Union and university clash over pay rise strike action
One of the region's major universities has expressed disappointment at news of staff set to walk out over a pay dispute.
UNISON has said that support staff at Birmingham University will walk out for two days this week, and for three days next week, as a row over pay threatens to disrupt the start of the academic year.
However, the university has said it was disappointed that the union had chosen to take this action after almost a year of negotiations.
Striking staff, including administrators, cleaners and catering employees, will take action on Thursday and Friday this week and from Wednesday to Friday next week.
The union said it had been attempting to reach an agreement with the university over its pay structure, but said that progress had stalled after the university said it would only increase pay if staff agreed to changes to their hours and other conditions.
In a statement by UNISON, it said the staff had reject the deal and said that senior managers had gone straight to staff, rather than going through the union.
The statement said: "University staff rejected the deal and overwhelmingly backed strike action with nine in ten members who voted in the June ballot supporting a strike.
"Hundreds of staff walked out last month in a one-day strike and the union has not ruled out further action after the five days this month.
"Despite previously saying that if UNISON rejected the changes the university would not proceed, senior managers then went directly to staff with their proposals.
"UNISON says this move risks further damaging relations with staff.
"The union says it remains keen to explore all options to avoid strike action. It has suggested going to arbitration service Acas to try and get negotiations back on track, but the university has refused."
Birmingham University UNISON branch secretary Mike Moore said: “Staff were clear when they rejected the changes to their working conditions that they were prepared to take strike action. As students return and the new academic year is about to start, the university needs to agree to proper negotiations to avoid further disruption.
“UNISON has repeatedly tried to resolve this dispute, but the university is still refusing to talk to us or even negotiate through a third party.”
The university put out a statement which said a lot of work had gone into developing the pay scale and a large proportion of staff were prepared to accept the new arrangement.
The statement said: “It is deeply disappointing that UNISON has chosen to take this action over support staff pay reform (SSPR).
"A huge amount of work has gone into developing the new pay scale and 87 per cent of staff have accepted the new arrangements. Under SSPR everyone’s base pay will rise.
"The average rise is 7.8 per cent and this is on top of the 6 per cent annual pay award for this year.
"These changes are also progressive, benefitting staff on the lowest pay grades the most, and with some staff receiving pay increases of up to 22 per cent in total.
"The vast majority of staff have already agreed individually to the new arrangements.
"Those who do not wish to accept the new terms and prefer to stay on existing arrangements are able to do so.
"The deal on offer involved almost a year of negotiations with the three relevant trades unions, only one of which is in dispute with the University."