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Taking action in higher education

University of Warwick votes for breakthrough efforts in staff strikes

11 February 2014 | last updated: 10 December 2015

Staff body says time has come for proper negotiations in fractious pay dispute that has seen students trying to put on their own lectures

The University of Warwick is under pressure to find a way to break the impasse between university staff and their employers in a row over pay after its main staff body called on the university to seek ways to resolve the increasingly bitter dispute.
 
At a meeting this morning the university assembly overwhelmingly passed a motion* that called on the University of Warwick to better reward staff, and put pressure on the employers' negotiating body to improve the pay offer to staff.
 
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the university, and across the UK, have walked out six times since the dispute began in October. There have been three full days of strike action and three two-hour stoppages. Frustrated students at the University of Warwick have even tried to put on their own lectures.
 
The dispute centres on the employers' refusal to improve a pay offer of 1%, which UCU says would leave staff with a real-terms pay cut of 13% since 2009. Yesterday university vice-chancellors were warned to rein in their excessive pay by ministers, following a glut of embarrassing stories about handsome pay rises for a handful at the top.
 
Some staff at the University of Warwick earn below the living wage rate of £7.65 an hour. While staff fight for the living wage and against another real-terms pay cut, the vice-chancellor, Nigel Thrift, pocketed a pay increase of 4.4% last year, on top of a 15.6% increase the previous year, taking his salary up to £287,000.
 
The motion passed today by the assembly - an advisory body to the university's management - questions why top earners are not subject to same pay restraints as the rest of the staff and urges the university to become a living wage supporter.
 
The union has said it is vital that the employers now commit to reopening talks about a fair pay settlement, otherwise it will be left with little alternative but to escalate its industrial action and consider moving to a marking boycott, which could hit end of year exams and graduations.
 
Warwick UCU branch secretary Jimmy Donaghey, who moved the motion, said: 'Nobody wants to see more strike action or risk a marking boycott. It is in the employers' power to stop that happening and we hope they will now come back to us with a fair pay offer. The higher education sector has been seriously undermined by vice-chancellors pleading poverty while accepting handsome pay rises themselves.
 
'This vote exposes the employers' lie that ordinary staff are content with the 1% imposed rise this year. The employers should get back to proper negotiations, while the University of Warwick's assembly should be applauded for trying to bring about an end to this increasingly fractious dispute, which has even seen some students trying to organise their own lectures.'
 
* The full motion that was passed by 104 votes to 4, with 20 abstentions:
The Assembly:
(a)    Notes that the University of Warwick is generally a successful university and moreover in, financial terms, consistently produces healthy surpluses.
(b)    Is concerned that wages are becoming a smaller share of the University budget while staff are seeing real pay decreases, despite over £70m in surpluses in the past three financial years.
(c)    Is concerned that those earning over £100k are not subject to the same downward pressures as all other staff.
(d)    Believes the University can pay more to all its staff and should use its influence to ensure UCEA settle the pay dispute with an improved offer as soon as possible.
 
The Assembly therefore requests the University of Warwick:
1)    To use its influence in UCEA to get better pay for all staff  and make a strong commitment to the living wage.
2)    To set an example and publicly support the living wage.
3)    To subject all staff not on the 51 point scale to the increases agreed through JNCHES.

The University and College Union (UCU) today (Wednesday) urged students to put more pressure on university leaders to reopen negotiations in a bitter university pay row that has seen industrial action hit UK campuses.

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