UNISON, the UK’s largest public sector union, has called on the Universities and Colleges Employers Association to get real and make a serious offer to compensate for a toxic combination of high inflation and below inflation increases over the last few years.
The Union, which represents 45,000 HE workers including registrars, cleaners, cooks, administration and security staff, is calling for a 7% increase to make up for the decline in real pay of members.
0.5% offer big disappointment for higher education workers
Mike Short, UNISON’s Head of HE, said:
“This pay offer is a big disappointment for hardworking higher education workers. Over the last three years, most staff have only seen a pay increase of around 1.4 per cent in total, while inflation over the period has been 12 per cent. This pay offer is wholly inadequate and will mean staff and their families will suffer from the effects of a real pay cut.”
For lower paid staff the impact of inflation is far worse. The cost of every day essentials such as food, fuel and energy have increased at an even higher rate than general inflation. With less disposable income, many lower paid staff are struggling to make ends meet.
UNISON is calling on higher education institutions to pay a significant pay increase to HE staff: an increase of 3.7 per cent on all salary points to match inflation in the year to February and a further increase of 3.3 per cent to begin to catch up with the real terms cut in pay over the last three years. The claim also makes clear UNISON’s demand for a living wage for all HE workers, so that they are paid enough to provide them and their families with the essentials of life.
Mike Short went on to say:
“UNISON’s members in HE play a crucial role in higher education and in supporting students – without them the system would not work. But while the Government focuses on opening the way for profit-making companies to enter the education system, our members are struggling to survive, as their pay falls and jobs are cut. They deserve decent pay, backed by a living wage guarantee.”
The Higher Education Service Group Executive is recommending that members vote YES to strike action. The employers’ final offer of a 1% increase is in reality a pay cut, when set against the current inflation rate of more than 3%. This follows several years of sub-inflation increases.
The national employers have also failed to offer any national guarantee of the Living Wage being assured for all HE staff. This means that some universities will be able to carry on paying wages which don’t provide workers with a wage which allows for a decent standard of living.
It is clear that a decent pay increase IS affordable, and the negotiations have gone as far as they can. Now, if members want to continue the campaign for fair pay, strike action is needed, and it is recommended that members vote YES.
To help with the campaign for fair pay in HE, UNISON is asking members to take two minutes to email the Vice-Chancellor. We have set up an online tool which enables you to do this really quickly. Click here and follow the simple instructions.
Higher education ballot result announced
On 2 October, UNISON announced the result of the industrial action ballot in higher education. The Union balloted members on whether they were prepared to take strike action against the national employers’ pay offer of just 1%.
UNISON had also asked the employers to guarantee that no HE worker would be paid below the Living Wage (£8.30 in London and £7.20 outside London), but the employers failed to meet this demand.
The results of the ballot were:
- 3,432 in favour of taking strike action (50.3% of those voting);
- 3,385 against taking strike action (49.7% of those voting).
On 11 October, the Higher Education Service Group Executive, the national committee for higher education, voted not to call strike action in relation to this year’s pay dispute as UNISON members voted very narrowly in favour of strike action.
In making their decision, the HESGE took into account the results from the other campus unions. UCU members voted 44%-56% against taking strike action. UNISON will hold further talks with the other unions to discuss our next steps with regard to the offer of a 1% increase.
Building for next year
Following the decision not to take strike action, delegates at the UNISON higher education branch seminar began discussions about pay for 2013/14.
UCEA wrote to participating institutions on 10 December, requesting that they pay the 1% increase on all pay points to staff. The award should be backdated to 1 August 2012.
Download the full trade union side national claim, submitted to JNCHES on 28 March 2012.