Please see information below about industrial action at the University of Sussex UNISON branch.
Statement of industrial action
In May 2023, our branch secured a mandate for strike action following negotiations over the HE pay offer for 2023-24.
Earlier in the year, UNISON, and four other recognised trade unions, argued that the UCEA pay offer for 2023-24 needed to be sufficient to settle the historic 2022-23 dispute, as well as meeting the claim for 2023-24. It stands below inflation and yet again, means a real terms pay cut for HE staff.
For this ballot, our branch opted for it to be disaggregated which has allows us to take local action. For this reason we are in a position to settle locally with the University, should they make a meaningful pay offer in line with UNISON’s demand within the national dispute.
Since the announcement of our ballot, regular meetings have been held between our Branch Secretary, our UNISON Regional Organiser and University leadership where we have tried to secure a better pay offer. Unfortunately, no offer has been put forward so we will be moving forward with plans to take industrial action.
Our mandate came from our members – you voted against the erosion of our pay. Now is the time to show the value and importance of Professional Service staff at the University, and fight for fair pay for all Higher Education staff.
Dates of action
After careful consideration, we will took our first round of action on Wednesday 16 August and Thursday 17 August.
We want to reiterate how fantastic the support was for our branch industrial action undertaken in August; all members should feel encouraged to know how strong our branch is. We are now moving forward with two further days of strike action taking place on Monday 2 and Tuesday 3 October.
In September, our Branch Secretary met with other Higher Education UNISON branches with strike mandates, and a decision we have made as a committee is to take part in coordinated action on these days to support the national UNISON campaign on HE pay.
Our original mandate for strike, which was passed in May, allows us to take action within 6 months and, therefore, be selective on key dates. It is a strong strategic position to join other Higher Education institutions, a group of 21 branches, and collectively put pressure on UCEA to come back to the negotiating table over the inadequate 2023-24 pay offer.
What was the joint TU pay claim?
The joint trade union claim on pay for 2023-24 was for a flat rate, consolidated increase of £4000 or RPI plus 2%, whichever is the greater. The pay motion carried at HE Conference 2023 called on the HE SGE to negotiate with the joint trade unions in higher education and to produce a joint claim for the following, including:
1. A consolidated pay award of a flat rate of £4,000, in addition to whatever employers are legally required to pay to meet the government’s minimum wage.
2. Reform of the pay spine to reinstate differentials between spinal points at the lower end of the pay scale, with a view to achieving a minimum spinal column point of £15 per hour.
3. Agreement that all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) become Foundation Living Wage employers, extended to all staff on campus.
4. Equivalent increases in London Weighting and all other allowances negotiated nationally.
5. Agreement with the HE employers to oversee the introduction of a maximum 35 hour working week in all HEIs.
We hope as many members as possible can join us on our picket lines throughout the two days of action. Our picket lines will be welcoming and a fantastic way to bring us together whilst undertaking our collective action. We will have placards, stickers, leaflets and other materials to use on the picket.
The picket will be staffed by official Picket Supervisors between 8am – 12pm.
Please get in touch to support the picket as a supervisor – we are welcoming any help!
Pickets will take place near the zebra crossing on the entrance to campus (directly in front of Falmer House). We will be on the side of the train station and underpass to the zebra crossing to ensure we are not on campus property. You can see the location on Google maps here.
Any member, work colleague, or member of the public who approaches the picket line can be spoken to, given a leaflet and the reason for the strike explained to them in a polite and courteous
manner. There will be no shouting or slurs to anyone crossing the pickets.
Important: We ask that members be particularly sensitive towards students wearing sunflower lanyards and, on the picket, do not approach these students at all. Sunflower lanyards are an indication of a hidden disability or someone who requires extra help and understanding. It is essential we respect this.
We will take great care to ensure that their activities do not cause distress, hardship or inconvenience to members of the public who are not involved in the dispute.
Facilities in Falmer House
Our fellow members at the Students’ Union are kindly supporting Sussex members by offering the facilities of Falmer House. We can use their toilets and have refreshments from the Room 76 café from 9am.
Please email the branch to share any requirements you have to join our picket. For example, we will be arranging seating. Our email is Unisonsussexuniversity@gmail.com.
Joint activities with University of Brighton
On Monday 2 October, we are invited to a rally with our neighbouring University of Brighton UNISON branch, gathering at 11.30am at Victoria Gardens (Brighton). This is an opportunity to come together with our placards and meet fellow UNISON striking members. Our Branch Secretary, Holly Foster, will be there to greet you.
You are then invited to King and Queen pub (Marlborough Place), which is opposite, for lunch with members across both Universities. Refreshments will be provided.
Notifying the University
Please be aware that you do not have to notify the University or your manager ahead of taking strike action. Managers should not ask whether you are striking either, this could minimise the impact of the action.
After strike action you will be required to notify the University using the online declaration form to confirm your participation. The University will also invite you to do this as well.
You must do this by 5pm on Thursday 12 October 2023,
This round of action comes before October payroll cut-off dates, so deductions will be made in the October 2023 payroll.
Strike pay and Hardship Funds
UNISON supports all members undertaking action with the offer of strike pay from day 1.
This means for any day’s pay lost to strike, you are eligible to make a claim. For action on this ballot we have a dedicated, enhanced fund allowing all members to claim up to £70 per day.
You will need to demonstrate that you have taken days of action with evidence of deductions from your payslip to be eligible for strike pay.
Separately, we will accept applications to a branch Hardship Fund for members who experience exceptional financial hardship due to strike action.
You will be emailed separately about claiming strike pay from the August rounds of action on Friday 29 September. When October payslips are released, we will email again about strike pay for the October action.
Non-members and strike action
Individuals can join UNISON at any point up to and including on the picket line on the day of action and lawfully participate in the strike.
New members can also claim strike pay, providing they are a member at on the days of strike pay and can evidence deductions (as detailed above).
We advise non-striking staff should not undertake work that would normally be done by colleagues who are on strike. Non-striking staff should not be moved from the duties they would normally carry out or otherwise be expected to undertake the work of striking colleagues.
Please remember that we carried out a lawful statutory ballot to take action, and the action is taking place in accordance with legislation. The law protects workers automatically from dismissal while taking part in law industrial action at any time within 12 weeks of the action.
For further information on your rights, again please read the HE FAQs on strike action.
This document also covers questions such as:
- What is the HE pay ballot about?
- Am I breaking my contract by taking strike action?
- What should I do if I have annual leave booked on strike dates?
- How late can someone join the union and still take part in strike action?
Get in touch and get involved
You can expect further communications on the lead up to strike days. With any questions, please do let the branch know as we are here to support and reassure you.
As a committee we are all volunteers, so also welcome any support you can offer us!