Fair Pay, Equal Pay: Higher Education Ballot

Having consulted members across Higher Education nationally this Summer, UCU have recently announced that 82% of members voted to reject the employer’s offer of a 2% pay settlement. Since the result UCU negotiators have also expressed disappointment that employers failed to improve their offer, and have announced that members will now be formally balloted on further action between 27th August and mid-October.

As with the recent USS pensions dispute, all institutions will be balloted locally so it will be crucial that members vote in order to reach a 50% turnout at every institution. At the University of Birmingham, our members can expect to receive their ballot papers by the 30th August following the bank holiday.

The 2% offer from employers once again represents a below inflation pay increase, and continues to see academic and academic-related pay fall behind comparable professions. Effectively, the offer will be a further erosion of pay on top of the 21% real terms reduction we’ve seen since 2010.

Furthermore, the offer does little to address the central demands on equality and casualisation. The offer was described as falling way short of the urgent action needed to improve security for vulnerable staff across the sector, and as making 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.

In their recent 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 continued:

“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 article in The Guardian article showed that the University was 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 top line pay and 66% less in bonuses.

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 University of Birmingham has generated an unprecedented £137m in surpluses in the past two years, while at the same time is leading the way in gender inequality, casualisation of education, and hyper-inflated Vice Chancellor pay. As a branch, we call on all of our members to make sure that we are also leading the way in demanding fair treatment of staff and a better future for University education. Please vote yes to strike action and to action short of strike action in the formal ballot.

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

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