In an ongoing dispute between the University and College Union (UCU) and British universities, academic staff across the country will strike on the 25th and 26th of May after a proposed pay increase of only 1.1 per cent.
The Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA) offered the increase, only 0.1 per cent above the previous offer, prompting the decision amongst union members after a vote for industrial action last week.
The pay increase has been described as “an insult” by the union, especially placed alongside a 14.5 per cent pay cut in real terms in the last six years. Staff members will walk out next Thursday and Friday as well as only working “to contract” from the 25th onwards—not working overtime, setting added work, or voluntarily giving time to cover classes, for example.
Students, most of whom have finished teaching for the academic year, have been warned of disruption to their timetables as well as possibly to administrative and library services, though were told that exams will proceed as normal.
UMUCU President, Adam Ozanne, in his introduction to the union branch’s Spring newsletter, wrote: “HE pay has fallen 14.5% in real terms over the past six years. The gender pay gap persists, with female academics earning on average £6103 less than their male colleagues. Staff costs as a percentage of total costs have declined as more and more is spent on new buildings and the salaries of a few top managers.
“Many VCs have awarded themselves generous pay increases: their average pay rose 3% between 2013/14 and 2014/15. It is time to both narrow the gender pay gap and make up some of the losses of the past six years. The HE sector, which generated a total surplus of £1.85bn in 2014-15, can afford more than 1.1% but our employers will not agree unless we insist on a fairer deal.
“Despite [the university’s] supposed commitment to Social Responsibility, there is evidence that pay inequality is increasing: the number of high-earning staff paid over £100k increased by 50% from 81 to 122 between 2013 and 2015 while much lower paid catering staff in UMC Ltd are losing their jobs and having their hours cut.”
General Secretary of UCU Sally Hunt said: “Members in higher education have sent a clear message to employers that, after six years of real-terms pay cuts amounting to 14.5%, they will not tolerate a continued squeeze on their income. Industrial action which impacts on students is never taken lightly, but staff feel that they have been left with no alternative.
“A 1.1% offer is an insult to the hard work and dedication of higher education staff, particularly in light of the 3% average pay rise enjoyed by vice-chancellors this year. The ball is now in UCEA’s court, but the employers need to come back to the table with a much improved offer if they wish to avoid significant disruption to students in the coming months.”
A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “The University has been formally notified that one of the campus trades unions (UCU) intends to commence industrial action in relation to a trade dispute over the 2016 pay claim with a two-day strike and continuous action short of a strike on Wednesday, 25 May and Thursday, 26 May.
“While recognising the rights of individual members of staff to take industrial action, it is the University’s intention to endeavour to maintain normal operations during industrial action to safeguard the interests of our students and also of our staff and other stakeholders.”