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HE Pay Dispute 2013 - Fair Pay in HE

UCU members have been taking industrial action and action short of a strike in response to the employers' failure to make HE members a proper pay offer for 2013-14. This has included one day and two-hour strikes, and working to contract.

Important : ImportantConsultative ballot over 2014-15 pay offer

As you know, the union has been in dispute for 11 months over pay. To date, members have engaged in two distinct phases of industrial action, including three one day strikes and three two-hour stoppages plus an o0ngoing work to contract. There is no doubt that the action to date and the threat of the marking sanction has resulted in the employers making an early offer in this year's pay negotiations to settle the dispute.

The 2014-15 offer

The employer's full and final offer is:

  • 2% on all pay spine points with effect from August 2014
  • point 1 (the lowest point) of the pay spine to be increased by an additional £30 which will be the equivalent of the living wage in those institutions with a 35-hour week
  • joint work to explore the use of the bottom pay points across the sector
  • both sides remain committed to explore the pay equality claims which will be addressed at next New JNCHES meetings on 24 April and 20 May.

The final offer of 2% from August 2014 would be in addition to last year's offer of 1% from August 2013, and would be conditional on the current 2013/14 dispute ending.

At a special meeting on 16 April, the UCU Higher Education Committee (HEC) discussed the offer and agreed to consult members on the offer. The committee also agreed to delay the implementation of the marking boycott from 28 April to 6 May to allow members longer to let us know what they think about the offer.
The pros and cons of the offer
There are pros and cons to the offer and the HEC agreed to consult members in a neutral way.
For example, it could be argued that the offer should be rejected as it

  • does not address our claim for the pay rise to match the RPI (currently 2.5%) which has been the traditional measure of inflation
  • does not provide any significant element of catch-up for the real-term losses experienced by staff since 2009
  • stands poor comparison with the high awards that those at the top have enjoyed in recent years.

On the other hand arguments for the offer's acceptance include that:

  • it is significantly better than that for other workers in the public and related sectors, with most such staff in health, education and the public services limited to increases of 1%
  • it retains annual increments even though they are under threat in other parts of the public and related sectors
  • it betters the CPI inflation measure (currently 1.6%), RPIJ (currently 1.8%), and the latest figures on annual growth in average weekly earnings across the economy (currently 1.7%). (Source, ONS, April 2014).

The consequences of this ballot
If a majority members vote to accept the offer then we will inform the employers, the pay dispute carried over from 2013 will be resolved, and the marking boycott due to commence on 6 May will not be implemented.
If a majority members vote to reject the offer then the pay dispute carried over from 2013 will continue, and the marking boycott will commence on 6 May. Your negotiators will also seek urgent talks with the employers to press them for a further, improved offer.
It is with your support that UCU has come this far. Whatever your views of this offer please make sure that you use your vote.
Information : InformationAll HE members eligible to take part in the consultative ballot were sent an email containing voting information. If you have not received this email please contact: mwaddup@ucu.org.uk

Assessment boycott

The marking boycott voted for by members and agreed by the Higher Education Committee (HEC) has been delayed until 6 May in order for members to be able to take part in the consultative ballot.

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Important : Important Fighting fund

Members who have had a day's pay deducted for taking two-hour strike action or are in real hardship are entitled to claim from the strike fund. Click here for more information.

Two-hour strikes hit universities

UCU members escalated their action by taking part in a series of two-hour stoppages . Members walked out on Thursday 23 January between 11am-1pm, and Tuesday 28 January, between 2pm-4pm. A further two-hour stoppage took place on Monday 10 February 9am-11am, after a further joint one-day strike on 6 February called by all four higher education unions. The third of UCU's two-hour stoppages will take place on Monday 10 February from 9-11am. Read more about the two-hour stoppages here.

Some employers have responded to the two-hour stoppages by threatening to deduct an entire day's pay. UCU has warned these employers that they will face legal action over punitive salary deductions . It alsoi emerged during this period that university vice-chancellors enjoyed an average pay rise of 5.1% last year .

Members continue action with a 'work to contract'

As well as the series of strike action, UCU members are continuing their work to contract action. You can find out what this means and what you should and shouldn't do in our work to contract FAQ page .

Joint union strike action

United for Education: Fair Pay Now : Joint union placard for the 31 October HE pay strike UCU, UNISON and Unite members took their first day of strike action on Thursday 31 October and walked out for a second day of strike action on 3 December .

UCU, UNISON and Unite members were joined by Scottish education union, the EIS, after the employers failed to improve on their offer. The joint unions had met with UCEA for further talks on 26 November 2013. Insultingly, the employers only said they were willing to 'look into' any equality issues if members accepted the pay cut on offer. The pay offer of just 1% this year would mean members in HE suffering a pay cut of 13% in real terms since October 2008. The squeeze on staff pay comes at a time when pay and benefits for university leaders increased, on average, by more than £5,000 in 2011-12, with the average pay and pensions package for vice-chancellors hitting almost £250,000.

This came after a new report which revealed that more than half of UK universities pay some of their staff less than the living wage and over a quarter have more than 100 staff paid less than the living wage.

A third day of joint one-day action took place Thursday 6 February, with employers having failed so far to offer any improvement on their 1% pay offer. With a further two-hour strike planned for 9-11am on Monday 10 February UCU has warned that if the dispute is not resolved by then that it will consider moving to a marking boycott, which could hit end of year exams and graduations.

International messages of support sent to UCU members

On 31 October 2013 unions from across the world sent in messages of support to UCU's higher education members , who were on strike against a 1% pay offer.

Industrial action ballot

The ballot closed at noon on 10 October. Turnout was 35.0%. The responses to the two questions you were balloted on are as follows:

Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of strike action?

  • Number of ballot papers returned: 20,741
  • Number voting YES: 12,754 (61.5%)
  • Number voting NO: 7,985 (38.5%)
  • Number of papers found to be invalid: 2

Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of action short of a strike?

  • Number of ballot papers returned: 20,741
  • Number voting YES: 15,967 (77.0%)
  • Number voting NO: 4,772 (23.0%)
  • Number of papers found to be invalid:: 2

The union's Higher Education Committee will discuss the result and the next steps tomorrow, Friday 11 October. UCU is working closely with the other higher education unions and their results will be considered as well. A further report will be sent to branches early next week.

 (.pdf) file type icon HE pay ballot result, Oct 13 (.pdf) [42kb]

Why we balloted

  • Staff pay is being systematically and intentionally eroded as part of a bad strategic choice by university managements who can afford to pay you more. Since 2009, the cumulative value of the pay cut is around 13%.
  • Yet universities are spending less on their staff overall and building up their surpluses and reserves.
  • In attacking pay to fund their surpluses, they are undermining the real basis of quality education for students and ultimately gambling with their own reputations.
  • Their actions are unnecessary, provocative and represent a failure in their duty of care to the staff who teach our students. They are also being reckless with the reputation of our sector. 
  • We have tried everything possible to make them reach a negotiated agreement with us, but they are refusing to negotiate meaningfully on anything in our claim.
  • They will keep on doing this, year after year, until we say enough is enough.

That's why we balloted for action.

The ballot closed on 10 October.

Ballot resources
 (.pdf) file type icon Stop the squeeze in HE pay: briefing for members (.pdf) [142kb]

You were not included in this ballot if you are a retired/attached/student member, or if you work in one of the following places: Imperial College, Cranfield, Birmingham City University, American InterContinental University, Arts Educational Schools, Guildhall, London Contemporary Dance School, Mill Hill, NIBSC, Ravensbourne, Regent's College, RADA, UHI, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama or Ruskin College.

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