At the UNISON Higher Education Conference on 16 February 2011 no valid resolution was carried in respect of the content of the 2011/12 pay claim. The Higher Education Service Group therefore agreed to undertake a brief consultation with branches on what they felt the key aims of the claim should be.
The background against which the claim was submitted was one of almost unprecedented difficulty. The government has set out a public sector pay policy of a two year pay freeze for all public sector workers, except the lowest paid staff. Universities are facing an uncertain future in respect of their funding arrangements and the teaching grant for institutions is set to be cut by 80%. Some institutions — including London Met — are already cutting jobs and staff are extremely concerned about job security.
However, at the same time the RPI rate of inflation is increasing at over 5%. We also know that many staff are facing real cuts in their standard of living as the cost of basic commodities such as fuel and food are increasing at an even higher rate. In addition, staff in higher education received pay awards in 2009 and 2010 which were considerably below the rate of inflation.
The service group executive sought to submit a claim that is realistic against the backdrop of the current financial climate, but also one that addresses the legitimate expectations of members that their wages should reflect increases in the cost of living. The reality for many staff is that following a virtual two year pay freeze in the sector, they have suffered real terms pay cuts.
The unions vigorously pressed the case for a decent pay award this year, linked to inflation to offset recent poor pay settlements in the sector. The employers responded, presenting their own background paper, which predictably sought to plead poverty.
Download the full trade union side national claim, submitted to JNCHES on 18 April 2011.
UCEA indicated a willingness to make a full and final offer of £150 on all points on the JNCHES pay spine. In keeping with the University’s desire to move to sector median pay, this increase will be implemented for all staff in the University other than senior managers.