UK university staff to vote on strike action in pay dispute

Ballot follows walkouts over pensions earlier this year

June 29, 2018
Ballot box

UK university staff are to be balloted on whether to strike over pay, just months after walkouts in a dispute over pensions.

In an initial consultation, 82 per cent of participating members of the University and College Union voted to reject the offer from the University and Colleges Employers’ Association of a minimum pay rise for 2018-19 of 2 per cent, rising to 2.8 per cent for the lowest paid.

In the consultation, which had a 47.7 per cent turnout, 65 per cent of respondents indicated that they were prepared to take industrial action over the issue.

UCU members will now vote in a formal ballot which will open in August and close in October.

The union said that the offer would leave many staff with below-inflation rises and do nothing to address the falling value of higher education pay, which it says has declined in real terms by 21 per cent since 2010.

Sally Hunt, UCU’s general secretary, said that universities could afford to pay more, but were spending money on capital expenditure instead.

“Staff working in our universities have had enough of seeing their wages held down while institutions prioritise capital spending and building reserves,” Ms Hunt said.

“The employers’ below-inflation pay offer does nothing to address years of decline in the value of higher education pay so we now have little option but to ballot for strike action.”

The ballot comes after 65 UK universities were hit by 14 days of strike action earlier this year in the dispute over changes to pensions provided by the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

Ucea said that it was “disappointed” by news of the ballot. It highlighted that, once progression pay increases were factored in, the average pay rise across the sector would be 3.5 per cent.

“Higher education institutions will be disappointed by this response from UCU, which encouraged its members to reject a pay offer where no one will get less than a 2 per cent base uplift and many will receive considerably larger increases,” a Ucea spokesman said.

“We know that this is an offer that some of our higher education institutions will find financially challenging in an extremely testing time for all in the sector.”

The strike ballot will coincide with negotiations over the future of the USS pension scheme, which is currently being considered by an expert panel.

Discontent among some union members about Ms Hunt’s handling of the pensions dispute led to a thwarted attempt to force her to quit as general secretary at the UCU annual conference earlier this month.

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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