In the recent consultative e-ballot, members of the UCU overwhelmingly rejected the employers’ derisory offer of a 2% increase in pay. This offer did nothing to make up the ground lost against inflation, which since 2010 amounts to a real terms pay cut of 21% —you can see how much you’ve lost on this online calculator. Nor did the employers make any meaningful offer to address the gender pay gap or to tackle the rampant casualisation across the sector.
In dispute resolution talks on the 17 and 23 July between UCEA (the University and Colleges Employers’ Association) and the Higher Education Trade Unions, including the UCU, the employers’ failed to take the opportunity to sufficiently improve their pay offer, or to move on pay inequality and precarious employment. Consequently, the UCU will be running an industrial action ballot in September on taking extensive industrial action in the autumn term. So, keep an eye on your pigeon holes and letter boxes for those ballot papers!
Locally, our senior management team seem to believe that you’re easily bamboozled. In their emails they’ve tried to make the offer appear better than it is by conflating pay rises with the pay increments you are entitled to as you progress in your career, if indeed you are eligible for them. Don’t be fooled—all staff deserve fair pay and decent contracts! We’ve complained about this misrepresentation.
We can win! The Higher Education Statistics Authority have reported that the sector has seen a £915m increase in income between 2015 and 2017, along with a £2.3bn surplus generated over the same period. In addition, current reserves are at £44.27bn (up from £12.3bn in 2009/10). In this financial context, keeping-up with inflation and catching-up with lost pay is affordable! We can pick up from where we left off in the USS strike and continue our fight against inequality and precarity in our universities!
Your help in publicising this to colleagues would be very welcome. You can download a poster to print off and put on your door or noticeboard and leaflets to give to people.
UCU negotiates nationally with the employers’ body, the universities and colleges employers’ association, over pay and conditions for academic and research staff, and, in pre-1992 institutions such as the University of Leeds, for academic-related staff (sometimes called ‘professional and managerial’ staff at Leeds). These negotiations take place within the joint negotiating committee for higher education staff.
UCU members influence the pay arrangements by electing the union’s higher education committee and by submitting proposals to the UCU congress through general meetings, and by voting whether to accept or reject offers when the negotiators thing they need to test the view of the membership on an offer. UCU members sometimes influence the pay arrangements by refusing to work when the employers are being unreasonable and not listening to the UCU reps negotiating on our behalf.
The employers – the senior management of the universities – influence the negotiations by telling the universities and colleges employers’ association what they can afford or what they want to see as an outcome. Although these are national negotiations, it is the senior management team of the individual higher education institutions who inform those national discussions.
The UK universities have cut our pay every year since 2009 compared with the cost of living. This loss is compounded by:
- a huge 23% gender pay gap because the University of Leeds recruits and promotes more men than women into the higher paying jobs, and
- more than one in three academic staff in the UK being on insecure contracts so they often can’t progress steadily up the payscales.
For more from the national union on the dispute see ucu.org.uk/he2018 and keep an eye on the weekly emails from the UCU national campaigns team.