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Date set for university pay talks, despite some universities paying 'derisory' increase

15 November 2013

Talks are set for next week in the pay row between universities and their staff, despite some universities imposing the 1% pay offer the unions have rejected.

Representatives from the unions in dispute - UCU, UNISON, Unite and the EIS - will meet the employers' representatives, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, on Wednesday (20 November) to try and bring the pay row, which saw staff walk out on 31 October, to an end.

However, UCU said today it was unhappy that some universities had included a 1% pay rise in staff's pay this month. The rise works out at about £5 a week extra for lecturers after tax. The 1% pay offer was dismissed as 'derisory' by the unions and prompted the current impasse. Unions say that the 1% means that staff have suffered a 13% real-terms pay cut since 2008.

Members of UCU have been working to contracts since Friday 1 November as part of the dispute. 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. The next strike is set for Tuesday 3 December if talks do not bring about an end to the dispute.

UCU head of higher education, Michael MacNeil, said: 'We are pleased that the employers have agreed to finally meet with us to try and resolve this dispute. There have been recent press reports where some vice-chancellors have made much of the importance of student fees to rise with pace of inflation. However, they've spent the past five years keeping staff pay way below that level, despite many enjoying very healthy rises themselves.

'Staff have suffered year-on-year cuts in the value of their pay and have made it clear that enough is enough. Some universities imposing a £5 a week rise does not change the fact that we are still in dispute. Adding the rise that prompted strike action will do nothing to help resolve the dispute. We hope the employers will use these talks to make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute.  If they don't, then our members and those from our sister unions will be out on strike again, as well as continuing to work to contract.'

The first day's strike, on 31 October, left some campuses deserted. Around the country lectures were cancelled, libraries shut and deliveries turned away. Services such as cleaning, catering and security were also affected.  

The cumulative operating surplus in the higher education sector is now over £1 billion and many higher education institutions have built up cash reserves. Overall staff costs in higher education, as a proportion of income, have fallen from 58% in 2001/02, to 55.5% in 2011/12.

Last updated: 10 December 2015