Unions baulk at ‘third below-inflation pay offer in a row’

Higher education staff have been given a “final offer” of a £150 pay rise for the next academic year, provoking an angry reaction from the sector’s unions.

July 12, 2011

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association made the 2011-12 offer at a meeting with the five unions – the Educational Institute of Scotland, the GMB, Unison, Unite, and the University and College Union – yesterday.

The offer would apply to all staff on the national pay spine, but not to the highest-paid staff – including vice-chancellors – whose pay is decided locally.

A Ucea spokesman said the “offer has been made in recognition of the difficulties faced by the lower paid staff working in the sector”.

However, as the national pay spine currently starts at £13,203, the £150 offer would amount to a below-inflation 1.1 per cent rise even for the lowest-paid staff.

The offer follows on from 0.4 per cent and 0.5 per cent pay rises in the previous two years.

Ucea’s spokesman highlighted the context of the “pay freeze for the majority of public sector employees” and “further financial challenges and uncertainties arising from changes to funding”.

The unions will consult with members on the offer, but none will recommend accepting. No further negotiations are scheduled.

Michael MacNeil, the UCU’s head of higher education, said: “Yet again the employers have offered our members a real-terms pay cut.

“At a time when the cost of living is rocketing, to offer £150 across the board is simply storing up trouble for the future.”

Mike Robinson, national education officer for Unite, said all of the sector’s unions had rejected the offer at the meeting, which was “a first”.

“This is the third year in a row of below-inflation offers from Ucea. It represents a decrease of over 10 per cent in salary for staff in the sector over the last three years,” he said.

“Universities are trying to raise the maximum fees and pay the minimum in pay.”

Ben Thomas, national education officer for Unison, said the union “was very disappointed with the offer and its national committee will decide what further action to take when it meets next week”.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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