As you will be aware the legally recognised trade unions for staff in higher education are in dispute with our employers about the ‘cost of living’ pay increment they have offered this year. I’m afraid that I have to tell you that as the UK university employers have failed to bring any new proposals to the negotiation table since our last day of action on 30th November, staff in UK universities will strike again on 3rd December. It is our expectation that many classes will not run and many central services will be closed on 3rd December.
What does this mean?
All levels of university staff from cleaners to professors are involved in this dispute. On Tuesday we will refuse to attend work that day and form protests, or pickets, at the main entrances to the building to discourage others from entering. We regret the disruption this will cause to classes on the day but it is one of very few options open to us. We will lose a day’s pay (which we hope will be donated to the student hardship fund) and many of us will have worked harder to mitigate the impact on students of our action. We are not only trying to maintain a decent standard of living for current staff but make sure the sector continues to attract good, new staff to enable teaching and research.
How can this happen?
Every year university employers representatives and university staff representatives meet in a national forum to agree changes to terms and conditions including pay. As a sector that recognises the right to join a trades union it is these unions that negotiate on behalf of staff. The unions balloted their members on the offer this year and the members (university staff) rejected this offer. This means that we are now in dispute with our employer and gives us the legal right to bring pressure on our employers through means of protest including strike.
Why is this happening?
We have not been in dispute with our employers over pay since 2005. At that time we secured an acceptable pay deal which expired in 2008. Since 2008 in spite of increasing student numbers, increasing workloads, increasing job instability and increasing requirements to do more and more to progress we have effectively suffered a 13% pay cut. This is unacceptable. As university have to publish their financial statements we know that our employers can afford a pay rise in line with the increase in cost of living. University leaders have continued to get real pay rises every year while the people that do the work see the value of their pay decrease.
The unions involved in this dispute are UCU, UNISON and Unite. We all hope that the employers come back to the negotiating table in the coming weeks to settle this dispute before we take more action in the spring term.
UCU Branch Secretary