University and college staff plan nationwide strike action over pay dispute

Almost two thirds of union members in higher education voted in favour of strike action over 'insulting' pay offer

Rachael Pells
Friday 06 May 2016 14:44 BST
University staff picket gates at Glasgow University during a one day walk out over pay in October 2013
University staff picket gates at Glasgow University during a one day walk out over pay in October 2013 (Jeff J Mitchell /Getty Images)

Staff and lecturers at universities and colleges across the country are set to go on strike as part of an on-going dispute over pay.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) working in higher education sectors voted in favour of industrial action this week, after staff were offered a 1.1 per cent pay increase for 2016-2017 - an amount staff said was "insulting".

The UCU said the offer from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) was a “marginally improved” one on its previous offer of a 1 per cent pay rise, but falls far below their demands.

Sally Hunt, General Secretary for the UCU, said: “Strike action is always a last resort for educators but the squeeze on pay has created real anger and staff working in higher education want to see a sensible offer which begins to address the real-terms pay cut they have endured since 2009.”

“The employer's marginal 0.1% increase to their 1% offer is insulting and UCEA urgently needs to review its approach.”

Almost two thirds (65.4 per cent) of members who voted in a ballot this week were in favour of strike action, with more than 77 per cent voting in favour of action short of a strike.

Union representatives from London Metropolitan University were among those who signed in favour, alongside the launch of their own campaign against job cuts and victimisation at the institution.

David Hardman, secretary for the London regional branch of the UCU and London Metropolitan University employee, said his colleagues were ready to take part in demonstrations as part of any industrial action planned by the union.

“We are in full support of the union’s call for action,” he said. “In real terms, pay for lecturing staff has been going down while expenditure on areas excluding staff pay has increased.”

“Universities are increasingly spending money on outsourcing and a 1.1 per cent pay rise is pretty insulting when considered against the rapid expansion of vice chancellors’ salaries.”

National representatives from the UCU are due to meet on Friday May 6 to discuss the ballot result, before a decision is made on what form the industrial action will take and when.

The union said that universities could afford to pay its employees more and argues that the latest offer of a 1.1 per cent raise “does little” to address the real terms pay cut of 14.5 per cent.

In a statement, the UCU said: “The squeeze on staff salaries comes at a time when pay and benefits for university leaders has increased, on average, by 3 per cent, with the average pay and pensions package for vice-chancellors standing at over £270,000.”

A UCEA spokesperson said: “Higher Education institutions believe that their staff will be perplexed by UCU's premature ballot."

"This final offer – taking the total average sector increase to 2.7 per cent - is at the absolute limit of affordability and the very best that will be available. It is an offer that address the key aspects of the trade union claim this year and one that we think all the trade unions should put to their members.”

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