Five unions representing staff in higher education have entered a joint claim of 7 per cent for the 2012-13 academic year – the first year of higher tuition fees.
They say this claim reflects the latest inflation rate of 3.7 per cent, plus an additional 3.3 per cent ‘catch-up’ following pay rises of just 0.5, 0.4 and 0.5 per cent in the past three years.
Low pay increases have resulted in real pay cuts of 10 per cent because inflation has risen 12 per cent in the same period, they argue.
But the Universities and Colleges Employers Association has only offered 0.5 per cent in negotiations today, union leaders claim.
Mike Short, Unison’s head of higher education, said: “This pay offer is a big disappointment for hardworking higher education workers.
“[It] is wholly inadequate and will mean staff and their families will suffer from the effects of a real pay cut.
“For lower paid staff the impact of inflation is far worse. The cost of every day essentials such as food, fuel and energy has increased at an even higher rate than general inflation.
“With less disposable income, many lower paid staff are struggling to make ends meet.”
Michael McNeil, head of higher education at the University and College Union, defended the 7 per cent pay claim.
“It is perfectly justifiable to enter a claim which is at least the rate of inflation – we are not going to go in with a claim below that,” he said.
“There has been a real terms pay cut at a time when employers have been reducing their staffing bill and increasing their surpluses. Institutions have banked that money and it is time for them to invest in their staff.”
Paul Curran, vice-chancellor of City University London and chair of Ucea, said uncertainty over student number flows within the sector had limited its potential to offer more.