Update on Pay Dispute in Higher Education

Dear members

Please see below an email from the National Officer to the reps on the National Committee. The email contains a request for members to influence the direction that Unite takes forward in the ongoing dispute for “Fair Pay in HE”. As your representative on the National Education Committee please forward your comments/questions/suggestions to me, so that I can take them to the next National Meeting on the 16th January 2014. Please read the email in full as it sums up where we currently are in relation to the dispute.

As your Branch Secretary, I believe that the two days of strike action have given a very loud and forceful message to the Employers that staff feel that the squeeze on wages must come to an end, sooner rather than later. Whether the Employers finally budge on pay this year remains to be seen, but we must take courage from the displays of solidarity/support seen here at Exeter and across the UK from staff, students and members of the public alike.

Best wishes and thanks for all your support in 2013.
Brett Crane
Branch Secretary



Firstly can I thank you for all your support on the day of Industrial Action on the 3rd December.

This day was always going to be difficult to pull off, however we did pull it off and both UCEA and Employers was astounded that we were prepared once again to take action with the other three unions in support of the dispute.

I acknowledge that we may have lost some members because of naming another strike day before Christmas or just naming a further strike day in general.  Never the less we have also made members on the back of this industrial action – that’s because you have, and Unite members along with our sister unions stood up to the employer.

You are all aware that the discussions under the auspices of ACAS came to nothing.  UCEA were not prepared to put any more money on the table, although UCEA were prepared to enter into further talks about:-

  • Closing the Gender Pay Gap
  • Zero Hours Contracts
  • Living Wage

It has to be emphasised talking about the above proposals with no firm commitment.

All unions met again with the employers on the 5th December, UCEA told us that even though we had the action on the 3rd December, they were not in the position to make any further financial improvements to the offer.

We pushed them on the other 3 issues, that they said they were prepared to discuss at ACAS, namely:-

  • Closing the gender Pay Gap
  • Zero Hours Contracts
  • Living Wage

The TUs said for us to enter into talks on these issues, we had to ask the employer what their commitment was to move these issues forward.

The TUs re-iterated that to take this forward in a positive way the employers would need to :-

  • End Zero Hours Contracts in Universities within 12 months.
  • To make sure that all Higher Education establishments pay the living wage within 12 months.
  • To close the gender pay gap within 2 years.
  • The TU side also pushed our dispute for more money to settle this.

UCEAS reply was they could put this to a board meeting on the 11th December but couldn’t commit to any of the above.  UCEA also believed that the board would not commit to the above either.

UCEA further told us that the possible outcome of the board meeting, was there would be no further talks, in other words the discussions were closed.

The TU side response was that although the employers might believe that in closing discussions the dispute was effectively over, it would not be the case.

The TU side firmly indicated that the board and employers could believe what they wanted, however the dispute was far from over, that the dispute would continue, all be it into another phase.

The TUs also made great emphasis that in certain areas of the country Universities particularly in Yorkshire and Scotland were breaking away from the UCEA line.  That the Universities of Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield and the West of Scotland were paying to staff unconsolidated payments of between £250.00 – £350.00.  These Universities were playing it as though it was a Christmas Bonus.  Never the less however it is put – it is extra money to the 1% pay offer!

The employers as you can imagine did not respond to this.  Although the TUs could see by their body language they were not comfortable with this situation, that some of their members were peeling away from the adopted position.

So colleagues, where does this leave Unite and sister Unions.

As mentioned earlier phase two either begins,! Or do we give up after coming this far?

The other unions want further action to be named at the end of January beginning of February 2014.

I believe for us in Unite, that we need to look at how we keep the dispute alive.  This is without keeping on a continual path of full day’s action all the time to make our point.

Unite has a National Sector Committee on the 16th January 2014 at that meeting we need to examine ways of doing the above.  Here are some ideas as a starter they might be:-

  • Further ballot for action short of a strike (when I mentioned this to UCEA they were not happy)
  • Examine some directed action at particular establishments
  • Look to action around 2-4 hours withdrawal of labour
  • More student involvement
  • Taking concerted further 1 day action not just in line with our own sister unions in Higher Education (The teaching Unions are taking action in February joining with them)

These are just some ideas, we can build on or disregard at the National Sector Committee.

So Colleagues I ask you to consider how we keep the action alive.

Could you please cascade this to all members and branch members.

Please give fair comments and send through by the NISC meeting on the 16th January.

Finally may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas and to go into 2014 with solidarity.

Best Wishes
Mike McCartney
National Officer
Education Sector

Strike 3rd December

Many thanks to all those that took part on Tuesday 3rd December. We had more places picketed, more pickets and even more impact than last time. So well done to everyone, who picketed, leafleted or just stayed at home.

The Exeter Socialist Students and Exeter Labour Party students unknown to us staged an occupation of part of Queens Building during the early evening of the 2nd December. They stayed all night and occupied the building up until midday when our picket lines finished. So we now have students actively supporting our Fair Pay in HE campaign. Other Universities also had Student Occupations of buildings in support of Fair Pay for staff. In one they staged an occupation of the Finance Directors Office and in another they occupied the senate building.

Many Trade Union branches have reported that the strike was bigger this time and that its impact was far greater. I’m not at the University today, but will be sending out some pictures of the Exeter picket lines tomorrow, with a reminder about how to claim strike pay.

Below is a piece taken from the Unite website and if you haven’t signed the online petition yet, please do if you can:-

H.E. – strike for fair pay

On Tuesday 3 December Unite, UCU, UNISON and EIS members working in higher education were striking for fair pay for the second time in two months. Why? Because five years of poverty pay rises and a 13% pay cut is simply unsustainable.
Big thanks and congratulations to everyone who took a stand for fair pay at universities across the UK. The support was tremendous.
150 locations – thousands of workers standing up for fair pay.
The fight for fair pay is not over – check back for updates

See the the action on Twitter #fairpayinHE

Strike action is never taken lightly, but despite months of talks, negotiations and campaigning the UCEA has refused to budge on fair pay.
The action followed an industrial ballot over the employer’s refusal to improve the one per cent pay offer for 2014.
For the past five years workers in the country’s top higher education institutions have suffered a sustained attack on their pay. Since 2008, below inflation pay rises have led to staff suffering a 13 per cent pay cut in real terms, while the cost of living continues to soar.
Last year’s one per cent pay offer cost our members dear; 97 per cent of manual staff and 90 per cent of clerical staff ‘lost’ £311, while 72 per cent of managerial, professional and technical staff ‘lost’ £417.

Show your support – sign the petition for fair pay in higher education now.