Unions urge staff to reject final pay offer

Staff in higher education are being urged to reject a “disappointing” 1 per cent final pay offer by universities.

May 22, 2013

All five unions involved in higher education – the University and College Union, Unison, Unite, GMB and EIS – will recommend to their members that they reject the offer made during the final pay negotiation meeting on 21 May.

The offer from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association is marginally higher than its previous offer of 0.8 per cent, though a long way from union demands of at least 3.2 per cent to keep salaries in line with inflation.

Universities claim the 1 per cent offer, plus incremental pay rises for long-serving staff of 1.4 per cent, will add an extra 2.4 per cent to the sector’s pay bill and cost a combined £250 million.

A higher pay offer is not possible due to on-going uncertainty within higher education and government expectations of pay restraint amid sluggish economic growth, Ucea has said.

However, Michael MacNeil, head of higher education at UCU, said the final offer should be rejected in light of the below-inflation increases in recent years.

“It’s disappointing that the final offer does nothing to address four years of pay cuts or the widespread and increasing use of casual contracts in higher education,” he said.

“UCU members are under pressure to improve the student experience, yet at the same time their pay is cut in real terms and their living standards continue to fall.”

He added that the union was also disappointed with the employers’ decision to offer to set up two separate technical working groups on the gender pay gap and hourly paid and casual contracts , rather than commit to the specific improvements in these areas suggested by the unions.

“The employers’ offer represents a missed opportunity to address the gender pay gap in higher education and the widespread culture of casualisation,” he said.

UCU members will discuss its response to the final offer at its congress in Brighton next week.

An identical pay offer of 1 per cent for 2012-13 was eventually accepted by unions after members voted not to back strike action.

Paul Curran, vice-chancellor of City University London and chair of Ucea, said this year’s offer reflected “challenging times” for higher education.

“All parties recognise that HEIs are facing wide-ranging and on-going financial pressures and uncertainty,” he said.

“Against that background, the employers made a final pay offer of 1 per cent alongside joint working on other important elements of the claim.”

Meanwhile, the Association of Colleges, which represents further education colleges, has broken off from national negotiations after trade unions unanimously rejected a 0.5 per cent pay offer – a move which risks the break-up of collective pay bargaining and possible strike action.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

Employers are probably betting that UCU won't have the cajones to strike, and that if they do, it will be another one-day walkout, a pointless gesture. I'm afraid they may be right, once again.

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