Unions set to reject final pay offer

Unions have expressed their disappointment after universities tabled a final pay offer for next year of 1 per cent.

May 25, 2012

The offer by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association for the 2012-13 academic year is double the initial 0.5 per cent rise put forward on 30 March, and higher than the 0.8 per cent increase tabled after a meeting on 20 April.

But it remains well short of the 7 per cent claim submitted by unions, calculated on the basis of a 3.7 per cent inflation rate and 3.3 per cent to account for a “catch-up” after three consecutive years of low pay rises – 0.5 per cent, 0.4 per cent and 0.5 per cent.

All five unions involved in the latest meeting, held on 22 May, of the joint negotiating committee in higher education – GMB, Unison, Unite, the University and College Union and Scottish teaching union EIS – have confirmed they will not recommend the final offer to their members.

While funding for higher education is expected to rise in 2012-13, Ucea said that granting larger pay rises would be difficult after the government has urged pay restraint within the public sector. It added that changes within the higher education sector had also caused great uncertainty, with many institutions set to lose student numbers.

However, it said that it had made positive proposals on other aspects of the trade unions’ claim, including equalities issues.

Ucea chair Paul Curran, vice-chancellor of City University London, said that “both sides [were] exploring all options and seeking realistic outcomes”.

“We are pleased to make this improved, final pay offer of 1 per cent alongside joint working on other important elements of the claim,” he added.

But Mike Robinson, national education officer for Unite, which represents 20,000 people working in higher education, rejected the offer. “The 1 per cent offer falls well short of the prevailing [level of inflation] and other low offers over the past three years have meant pay has been cut by over 10 per cent in real terms,” he said.

“That is unacceptable at a time [when] universities and colleges are tripling student fees.”

Jon Richards, Unison’s senior national education officer, added: “Clearly the offer does not meet the trade union claim in full and it represents a further below-inflation pay rise in the sector.”

A UCU spokesman said that the final offer “failed to meaningfully address any of the elements of the joint union claim”, including the call for a living wage for the lowest-paid staff or moves to improve conditions for staff paid by the hour.

Unison will announce its decision by 31 May, while UCU will put the offer to delegates at its national congress, which takes place in Manchester from 8 to 10 June.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

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