Pay victory for cleaners at the University of Sheffield

Unite press release

For immediate release: Tuesday 19 October 2021

Hundreds of cleaners ‘who joined Unite to organise and fight for better pay’ have won their campaign for an hourly wage of £10 an hour at the University of Sheffield.

Unite regional officer, Harriet Eisner said: “Sheffield University listened and was moved by the cleaners’ effective campaign. Unite negotiated with management to boost the pay of the lowest paid workers at the University to £10 an hour. The outcome sends a message of hope to other low-paid workers. Getting organised into a union is the best way to improve your job, pay and conditions.”

The University’s management signed an agreement with Unite representatives today (Tuesday 19 October) to confirm the decision to increase the workers’ pay from £9.52 to £10 an hour. The campaign was backed by the University’s students, by local Labour MPs and the Sheffield Socialist Party. Over 14,000 people signed a petition calling for a £10 hourly wage.

The cleaners who are directly employed by the University of Sheffield have been organising themselves since March 2021. There are more than 350 cleaners employed by the University.

Unite Branch secretary, Chris Rawlinson said: “This is a huge victory for cleaners at the University who joined Unite to organise and fight for better pay. We are delighted that the University has recognised the hard work and dedication of our key workers by promising a £10 minimum wage from November 1st. We hope that this win will inspire cleaners across Sheffield to organise and demand a fair wage from other employers in the city.”


Unite members back strike action at University of Dundee over ‘pension poverty’

Unite Scotland Press Release

Immediate Release 5 October

Unite members back strike action at University of Dundee over ‘pension poverty’ proposals 

Unite Scotland can confirm today (5 October) that its members at the University of Dundee have voted to support strike action in a dispute over workers being plunged into ‘pension poverty’.

Unite’s members at the University supported taking strike action by 78% in a ballot turnout of 67%. Unite can also confirm that its members will now be on strike from 25 October, 2021.

The University of Dundee propose to replace the existing Defined Benefit Pension Scheme with a Defined Contribution Pension Scheme for those on the lowest grades (i.e., grades 1-6). Workers in grades 7 and above will have their pensions protected through the existing UK wide Superannuation Scheme, which has a Defined Benefits element.
The pension proposals will mean that a clerical worker on a lower grade could lose up to 50% of their pension across the expected term of retirement. This could result in an amount of up to £150,000. The trade union also estimates that around 70% of its members in the existing Superannuation Scheme are female. 

The consequences of the pension proposal, if it gets implemented, will mean that University of Dundee workers will have to work longer and contribute more into their pension – if they can – and they will still have no guarantees of the amount they will receive in retirement. Unite has over 100 members who will be adversely affected by the pension proposals.

Unite has put forward various proposals to the University of Dundee including allowing grades 1-6 to join the Pension Scheme which is afforded to grades 7 and above. The trade union has also asked for a recalculation of the pension valuation to be conducted, as this was initially done at the height of the Covid pandemic.  These proposals have all been rejected.
Susan Robertson, Unite industrial officer, said: “The First Minister, and the Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, have both urged the University of Dundee to get back round the table to find amicable solutions. However, the University has completely ignored these calls other than extending the consultation period over the proposals. They seem hell-bent on proceeding with a pension scheme which will disproportionally impact upon the lowest paid workers who are also predominantly women workers.”
“The Minister for Higher Education and Further Education has strongly encouraged the University to apply ‘Fair Work Principles’.  These principles make it clear that employers, workers and trade unions should work together to reach the right decisions concerning workplace issues, and to ensure that workers are treated fairly and with respect.”

“Yet, the proposals on the table will plunge workers into pension poverty and require them to work longer. Dundee is already a city with widespread deprivation. The University of Dundee prides itself on being the place to study.  It should pride itself on being the place to work as well.


Notes to Editor

Unite Scotland is the country’s biggest and most diverse trade union with around 150,000 members. The union is led in Scotland by Pat Rafferty.