Higher education workers at the University of Chester joined staff from across the UK in striking for ‘fair pay’ against a backdrop of increases in the cost of living.

Cleaners, security guards, catering staff, technicians and administration staff went on strike all day on Thursday, February 6, along with lecturers and academic staff.

The action involved the University and College Union, Unison and Unite, who picketed the Parkgate Road entrance.

Unions estimate higher education staff have seen their pay fall by 13% in real terms over the past five years.

And Unison claims universities have accrued cash surpluses of £2bn over the past two years, but despite this there are more than 4,000 higher education workers who are paid less than the living wage of £7.65 an hour.

The union says the cost of giving a pay rise to all low-paid higher education workers to the level of the living wage is estimated to be £5m which it describes as “easily affordable for cash-rich universities”.

Pat Barlow, of Unison North West, said: “While university staff have seen their pay fall by 13% in real terms, university vice-chancellor pay now averages more than £240,000. It’s time for fair pay in higher education.”

The University of Chester decided to withhold a full day’s pay for workers involved in a two-hour walkout on January 28 and again on Monday (February 10) of next week.

A spokeswoman explained: “Attendance for part of a working day, at the discretion of an individual member of staff, does not constitute performance of a contract of employment for that day. In law, the practice of taking industrial action for a short period of time, but working outside the strike hours on the same day, is regarded as voluntary.

“Therefore, universities employing members striking for part of a day are legally entitled to withhold pay for a whole day to reflect this.”