Thanks to all who came to yesterday's meeting, addressed by Max Watson from the UNISON NEC - there was a good turnout, and a clear committment to a campaign to get a better, fairer deal on pay this year.
firstname.lastname@example.org), Jo (email@example.com) or Tony (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the first instance if you have further questions, want to get involved, or want to join UNISON.
NOTES FROM AUGUST 9 MEETING
Higher Education pay is being negotiated at national level, by a collection of HE employers on one hand and a collection of HE trade unions on the other.
The employers are legally bound by the final decision made at these talks.
For the last 3 years in a row the pay increases in the HE sector have been below inflation. This means that effectively HE staff have had less to spend year on year1.
Trade unions have asked that staff receive a 7% increase this year, to account for inflation and start to make up for the past few years.
The employers have returned a counter-offer of 1% and at present are not prepared to negotiate further. (Inflation is currently 3%.)
TUs have also asked that no one in the sector should be paid less than the living wage2.
The employers have made no offer in response to the living wage question (effectively meaning it will not be implemented).
The Employers say that financial uncertainty and falling student numbers mean that they are not sure what their income will be over the next few years. They say this is why they are not offering more than 1%.
No figures were available for the sector as a whole, but it was mentioned that the University of London alone had a reserve of £93.2million3 in the financial year 2010-11.
Employers have admitted that the cost of wages is dropping year on year as a proportion of what they spend. At present the spend on wages in the sector is the lowest it has ever been.
No industrial action has been taken about this is the past 3 years, but all unions have now rejected the 1% offer as being too low and not taking account of the living wage.
Union members will be balloted September about whether to take industrial action.
If action were taken, it could take the form of strike or ‘work to contract’ where members only do their contracted hours and tasks. This would take place in October. At present unions don’t know how long any such action might go on for.
However, the stronger the ‘yes’ vote in the ballot, the less likely action would be: if employers see that staff are serious in rejecting this offer, they are more likely to return to the negotiating table.
A recent consultative (not legally binding) ballot of Unison members at UoL got a 44% turnout, of which 94% voted to reject the employers’ offer of 1%.
What to do if you’re interested
Join the union5 if you are not already a member. Non-members cannot vote in the ballot.
All unions are encouraging members to vote yes to taking action.
However, they have stressed that either way what is needed is a strong response to the ballot: if people don’t vote, a strike may go ahead which most members don’t actually want. So the message is vote yes or vote no, but please vote!!
Make sure your union has an up-to-date address for you so that you receive your ballot paper.
I hope this has been interesting – a lot more anecdotal evidence was given but I couldn’t write everything down! You can of course contact me if you’d like a membership form or if you have any other questions. I can’t promise I can answer everything but I’ll try to find someone who can!
1. One speaker reported that many members, not just those on the lowest pay grades, are now getting into debt and relying on pay day loans or Union hardship funds to meet their financial obligations.
2. The Living Wage Campaign calls for every worker in the country to earn enough to provide their family with the essentials of life. In London the current rate is £8.30 per hour. Outside of London the current rate is £7.20.
3. I have double-checked that I didn’t write this down wrong!
4. Operating surplus essentially means profit after expenditure (e.g. wages). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operating_surplus
5. Unison and UCU are the two unions recognised by the University of London. Although you are free to join either union, traditionally UCU has represented Academic, Research and AMP Staff, and UNISON has covered everyone else. See https://intranet.london.ac.uk/927.html