Unions rebuff Ucea’s one-off 0.25 per cent offer

Employers’ ‘modest, non-consolidated’ pay proposal falls short of joint staff demands for 4 per cent hike and job security assurances. John Gill reports

March 30, 2010

The first meeting in the 2010-11 pay negotiations has ended with the campus unions demanding that the employers return with a “credible” offer.

At a meeting on 29 March of the new Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association put forward an offer of a “modest, non-consolidated pay increase” of 0.25 per cent.

This was unanimously rejected by the five campus unions: the University and College Union, Unite, Unison, GMB and the Educational Institute of Scotland. The unions submitted a joint claim of a minimum of 4 per cent prior to the meeting.

The UCU said the Ucea offer was effectively a one-off payment, which would not carry over to the following year, and accused it of making “no serious attempt to address the other key elements of the joint union claim”.

It said there was no discussion about the unions’ proposals to improve job security, to improve the national framework agreements and terms and conditions of employment, or to assimilate hourly paid staff to the national agreement.

It added that Ucea had “asserted that the effect of incremental increases on the pay bill should be taken into account during pay negotiations”, a point the union rejected.

“Unlike the private sector, which pays the rate for the job from day one, in the public sector staff start below the full rate and build up, reflecting increasing knowledge and skills – arguably providing a short-term subsidy for employers,” the UCU said.

“The employers negotiated a pay deal in 2003 that clearly accepted increments as part of the structure. So to complain now, when they have known and presumably budgeted for such increases, is a little disingenuous.”

Ucea said it had “discussed with the unions the difficult economic background and the details and costings of their [4 per cent] claim. Against the background of cuts in sector funding…the employers invited the trade unions to consider how a modest non-consolidated pay increase of 0.25 per cent might be applied. This offer was made following a period of extensive consultation with institutions,” it said.

It added that the offer was set against an “exceptionally difficult economic climate with institutions facing serious financial challenges and uncertainties relating to funding.

“Sector pay has improved considerably in recent years, including a base pay rise of at least 16.4 per cent from 2006-07 to 2009-10. This, alongside the significant rise in employer pension contributions, has put pressure on institutions’ budgets,” it said.

The UCU said the employers had been “asked to rethink their position and come back with a credible offer”. The next meeting is scheduled to take place on 19 April.

john.gill@tsleducation.com

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