UCU confirms next steps in university pay dispute

2 June 2016 | last updated: 3 June 2016
  • Disruption targeted at open days and graduation days in the summer
  • Assessment boycott to start in the autumn
  • External examiners continue to resign their positions on exam boards

UCU today set out the next steps in its dispute with university employers over pay. University open days and graduation ceremonies will face disruption over the summer as individual union branches take strike action to coincide with the events.

At its annual congress in Liverpool, UCU members working in higher education also voted to escalate their action with a marking and setting of work boycott in the autumn term, if the dispute has not beensettled. The row over pay kicked off last week when UCU members in UK universities walked out for two days.

The dispute has arisen following a pay offer of just 1.1% from the universities' employers, UCEA. UCU said universities could afford to pay more and the latest offer did little to address the real terms pay cut of 14.5% that its members have suffered since 2009. The squeeze on staff salaries comes despite vice-chancellors enjoying a 6.1% pay hike.

As well as walking out last Wednesday, UCU members have also started working to contract, which means they will refuse to work overtime, set additional work, or undertake any voluntary duties like covering timetabled classes for absent colleagues.

The union has also called on external examiners to resign their positions on exam boards; a move which threatens to disrupt marking this summer when boards meet to discuss challenged marks. External examiners are a crucial part of quality assurance in universities, as each course requires an external examiner to ensure that an institution's assessment is fair and comparable with others.

Since 2010 the amount spent on staff by universities as a percentage of total income has dropped by 3%. However the total of cash in reserves has rocketed by 72% to over £21bn.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Following members' decision to back escalating strike action, local branches have already come forward with strike dates timed to target open days and graduation ceremonies.

'The employers need to recognise that staff will no longer accept their pay being held down while a few at the top enjoy the rewards of increased money for universities. Nobody wants to takeindustrial action, but clearly enough is enough. We hope the employers willrespond positively to members' decision to escalate their action and come back to us with a serious pay offer.'

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