Screenshot of Tim Jones' UoB Briefing email on the UNISON UoB strike ballot

Birmingham UCU response to Tim Jones’ UoB Briefing

On Monday (20 May), the Birmingham UCU Committee emailed its members in response to a misleading all-staff email Tim Jones, Provost and Vice-Principal, sent about the current UNISON UoB strike ballot. Unlike University management, Birmingham UCU cannot communicate directly with all staff. Please help us get our side across by sharing this message with your colleagues and friends.

Sent on behalf of your BUCU Committee

Following the misleading and inaccurate all-staff email from Tim Jones last week, we are linking to the response from our support staff colleagues in Birmingham UNISON. The UNISON response can be found in full here:

They point out in their response that Tim Jones has not attended a single pay negotiation meeting throughout 2018/19 with any of the support staff unions. We can also inform you that he cancelled our negotiating meeting (JNCC), due to be held with BUCU last week, at just two day’s notice without providing us with any alternative dates. Members may recall his prolonged absence between November and February during which time he failed to respond to BUCU emails, with HR refusing our meeting requests, and sent a largely plagiarised letter to our local MP. It is therefore fair to conclude that he does not exactly have a “committed” record when it comes to “continued dialogue”.

On the substance of the email

Support staff at the University of Birmingham negotiate pay locally and the University have repeatedly refused to allow them to be a part of the national negotiating process. It is therefore deeply hypocritical to then use this as a reason for closing local negotiations early. The support staff unions have been holding negotiating meetings with the University for over 9 months and, in November, held an indicative ballot of their members which returned an 88% ‘Yes’ vote for action on a 55% turnout. In response, the University failed to make any offer whatsoever to improve pay and conditions for support staff.

On the pay offer of 2% and the refusal to become a living wage accredited employer – UNISON note that this was a below inflation offer that once again amounted to a real terms cut. Meanwhile, the University have outsourced staff at the new Hotel and Conference Park, reducing sick pay and holiday pay entitlements, and reducing hourly rate to just £8.21. The University have also refused to look at how much of their supply chain would be affected by living wage accreditation and refused to fund a living wage in the Guild of Students. Meanwhile, Tim Jones himself and the rest of the University of Birmingham Executive Board have received an average £28,100 pay rise each over the past three years (at a cost of £337,000 pa to the University)… which would be enough to fund the living wage in the Guild almost four times over!

You can support by signing UNISON’s petition to bring outsourced staff back in-house.

On the gender pay gap – women at the University earned on average 19.4% less than men last year, which was an improvement from 19.9% less the year before. At this rate we might eliminate the gender pay gap in 40 years time… However, even that looks optimistic as the only action that University management will acknowledge is the need for more women in senior posts. This is important (and relatively easy given the male dominance in recent years) but does not address the fact that the University employs a majority of women and migrant workers on poverty wages across campus. We cannot solve the gender pay gap, and certainly not the more complex intersections of inequality, without addressing pay inequality and progression. To date the University have thoroughly failed on this issue due to their refusal to commit to any of the concrete policy changes would begin to make a real difference (see the 2018 Joint Unions Report: Fair Pay, Equal Pay: Towards a new settlement for working life at the University of Birmingham).

On the issue of the pay spines – Tim Jones’ communication is again entirely misleading and inaccurate. UNISON have repeatedly asked that the pay spines for bands 200 to 500 be improved with positive investment from the University. In response the University have said they will only negotiate if the unions agree to reduced terms and conditions relating to sick pay, holiday pay, and reduced overtime pay. A member of staff on band 200, for example, currently gets no automatic increments at all and would face losing their overtime rate and sick pay entitlement simply to get the University back to the negotiating table. The response from the unions on this has and always will be a clear NO. Fair pay should not come at the expense of terms and conditions for the lowest paid, and for someone in Tim Jones’ position to suggest otherwise is an offence to basic human decency.

How you can help

Please share UNISON’s response to Tim Jones’ UoB Briefing, either by copying the link. In his email Tim Jones has access to the entire staff list (over 8,000 staff) while the unions combined can only circulate our response to less than 2,000. We believe that UNISON should be given a basic right of reply given the misleading and inaccurate statements below, and sharing this ourselves is within our right to academic freedom.

Support us/them on social media!

Volunteer! UNISON have put out a general call for volunteers. If you’re able to put up posters, door knock, or phone bank then please get in touch at

And finally… It’s high noon for David Eastwood. Please watch and share:

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