Union bosses leading charge in demanding better wages for lecturers

The superhero and cava-quaffing daughter of a miner: Meet the union bosses leading the charge in demanding better wages for lecturers

  • Robyn Orfitelli, 35, is chief pay negotiator for the University and College Union
  • She has taken to picket lines wearing a mask and a black leather ensemble
  • UCU’s boss Jo Grady gave up job as a senior lecturer to run campaign of strikes
  • Has condemned high pay handed to vice-chancellors, but has six-figure salary

Posing in her superhero costume, Robyn Orfitelli is a hero to striking academics but a dastardly villain to the country’s university bosses.

The 35-year-old from Alaska, who is the chief pay negotiator for the University and College Union, has led the charge in demanding more pay and better pension deals for staff, declaring: ‘Solidarity and comradeship are worth everything.’

She has taken to picket lines wearing a mask and a black leather ensemble with a yellow lightning bolt across the front.

The former Harvard student has also posted encouragement for striking tutors from her black cat, named Max, on Twitter, writing: ‘Max sends everyone good luck in fighting for better employment rights and better government.’


Robyn Orfitelli, 35, (left) who is the chief pay negotiator for the University and College Union, has led the charge in demanding more pay and better pension deals for staff. She is the side-kick of UCU’s glamorous boss Jo Grady (right)

She may look like the hero, but Orfitelli is actually the sidekick to UCU’s glamorous boss Jo Grady, a miner’s daughter who gave up her job as a senior lecturer in employment relations at Sheffield University last year to run the campaign of strikes.

Grady, 36, has been vocal in recent days, pushing for coverage of the strikes and criticising university heads for their high earnings.

She has condemned the high pay packages handed to vice-chancellors, but takes home a six-figure salary herself as general secretary of the UCU. 

The UCU refused to reveal her salary but her predecessor Sally Hunt was paid £170,448 and took home benefits of £23,339 last year.

Grady, 36, has been vocal in recent days, pushing for coverage of the strikes and criticising university heads for their high earnings (pictured are members of the University and College Union at the University of Bristol on Thursday)

Miss Grady, who is in a relationship with the Leicester UCU pensions officer Chris Gracott, was born in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, into a mining family.

She later helped out at her father’s pub on Saturdays, before going to college.

She finished a degree in industrial relations at Lancaster University and landed a job at Leicester University before moving to teach at Sheffield.

Last week, Grady joined thousands of lecturers manning picket lines outside university campuses, where there have been impromptu lectures about the history of trade unions and even some knitting workshops.

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