The five unions involved in higher education – the University and College Union, Unite, Unison, GMB and EIS - which represents staff at some Scottish universities – will meet the universities’ representative, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association today after asking for an above-inflation pay claim for the coming academic year.
The unions did not specify an exact figure for the 2013-14 national pay claim, but say next year’s increase should at least match inflation as measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI), which has consistently been above 3 per cent over the past three years.
Unions are also asking for an unspecified “catch-up” rise to compensate for four years of below-inflation pay rises, which they say have cut the value of members’ pay by 13 per cent over this period.
“Our members are being asked to work harder, deliver excellence in teaching and research, pay more for smaller pensions and, in return, take a pay cut,” said Michael MacNeil, national head of higher education.
Higher education staff were awarded a 1 per cent national pay rise in 2012-13, which followed three successive rises below 1 per cent in previous years.
Most union members voted to refuse the 1 per cent offer last year, but only a minority at most unions later voted to support full strike action in protest. The national pay offer was then accepted.
Other demands made in next year’s pay claim include a call to scrap the bottom two points of the national pay spine - £13,486 and £13,839 – to ensure all staff working within higher education earn at least the £7.45-an-hour “living wage” (£8.55 an hour for those working in London).
Negotiators are also calling for the minimum London weighting allowance, which varies between £2,134 to more than £3,000 a year at different institutions, to increase to 4,000 – a rise that could be phased in over four years.
They also want the national pay spine to be extended beyond point 51, its highest point – a move to address the growing pay gap between senior staff and professors, whose pay is uncapped by national pay bands, and rank-and-file academic staff.
Unions are also calling for agreements on anti-casualisation, disability leave, workload and working hours, redundancy processes and measures to address a gender pay gap.
They say the measures are affordable given the “stronger than projected” surpluses recorded in June 2012, falling staff costs as a percentage of income figures and pay rises awarded to senior staff and vice-chancellors in 2011-12.
A Ucea spokesman said it will discuss the claims at an initial “context-setting meeting” before negotiations begin on 23 April.
“Employers will also present trade union colleagues with a statement that sets out the broad position and issues facing sector institutions this year,” he said.