Fair Pay, Equal Pay: Higher Education Ballot

The national higher education pay claim has now officially been put to members by the Universities and College’s Union (UCU). All members should have received an email on the 6th June entitled ‘UCU pay and equality consultation’ inviting them to vote in the consultation. The offer from employers once again proposes below inflation pay increases and only vague references towards the gender pay gap and precarious contracts. You can find the offer from employers here and UCU’s full report on the pay claim here.

The latest employer offer does little to ensure that the gender pay gap is a priority; falls way short of the urgent action needed to improve security for vulnerable staff across the sector; and continues to see academic and academic-related pay fall behind comparable professions.

In their June pay claim update, UCU state that:

“In higher education the only aspect of salaries that is getting bigger is the gender pay gap. The employers’ latest pay offer of 2% does nothing to restore ground lost against inflation (a real terms cut of 21% since 2010) or to address gender inequality or precarious employment in the sector.”

They continue:

“2% reflects a continuing de-prioritisation of staff pay; while the proportion of university expenditure spent on staff has fallen to just 54.7%, reserves held by institutions have increased by 259% and capital expenditure by 34.9%.”

At the University of Birmingham, BUCU’s own analysis showed that average staff pay actually fell slightly last year from £38,100 to £37,883* for all academic and support staff, while a recent Guardian article showed that the University is the worst employer in the Russell Group for use of insecure casual contracts. Similarly, a recent survey on gender pay showed that the University pays women 20% less than men.

In response to the gender pay gap the Vice Chancellor criticised the findings and claimed that the pay gap was not because women were being paid less than men for the same work… but simply because men tend to occupy the more senior positions across the University!

“It also does not include any of the personal characteristics that tend to influence a person’s pay… While the reasons for the existence of the gender pay gap at the University are complex, our analysis indicates that the greater representation of female staff at lower grades and their relative under-representation at senior levels has had a significant impact on the University’s gender pay outcome.”

The UCU HE sector conference resolved earlier this month to put the offer to a full industrial ballot should staff reject the offer in the current consultation. It also mandated officers to make pay UCU’s flagship campaign, and for equality, casualisation and gender-pay to be at the front and centre of it.

*Average pay calculated across the University based on the 2017 annual accounts, excluding the University Executive Board.

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