Staff at the University of Brighton and Sussex University have walked out as part of a wave of strike action over a pay dispute.

Administrators, cleaners, library, security and catering workers are among around 70,000 members of the University and College Union (UCU) and Unison taking part in industrial action in the biggest strike of its kind.

An estimated 2.5 million students are reported to be affected by this week’s walkout, with unions warning of escalated action in the new year if the row is not resolved.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady, who joined a picket line in Manchester, said that members have “had enough” of falling pay, pension cuts and gig economy working conditions.

She said: “Our members are absolutely up for this strike in huge numbers because they know what is at stake.

“Universities have £40 billion in reserves but appear to be more bothered about buildings than people.

“Around 90,000 staff are on fixed-term contracts. They want a career but are being prevented from putting down roots.”

Unison South East regional secretary Steve Torrance said: “Low pay has been a massive, and growing, problem in the university sector for more than a decade.

“The cost of living crisis is pushing people to the brink. University support staff can’t even cover the basics.

“They’ve had enough and are quitting the sector for jobs on better pay.

“Going on strike is always a last resort, but the inadequate pay workers have been given this year is the final straw.

“The universities should do the right thing and come back with more money to show they care about their employees, This would help keep them in their posts, so students can receive the support they need and have the best possible experience of university,”

Strikes will also take place tomorrow and on November 30 at the University of Brighton.