- 2014 Higher Education Service Group Conference
- 7 November 2013
Conference welcomes the decision by UNISON’s Higher Education Service Group Executive (HESGE) to ballot members on the 2013/14 pay offer and the decision by members to take industrial action to substantially improve the offer.
Conference believes that our fight for fair pay and conditions is part of UNISON’s fight against austerity and for an alternative political economy which recognises the value of public services and public service workers.
Five years of pay restraint have seen a real terms fall of almost 15% for most support staff in higher education. At least a third of universities do not pay all of their staff a Living Wage – the minimum level needed to provide workers and their families with a decent standard of living – currently set at £7.65 (£8.80 an hour in London). Conference notes that low pay and discrimination continue to blight the working lives of women, pregnant women and black members.
The long-term pay freeze has left many higher education workers battling to make ends meet and dependent on benefits and loans to survive.
There is a massive difference in pay between those at the top and those at the bottom, with the lowest paid having to work on average 18.6 years to earn the annual salary of the head of their university.
Pay restraint hasn’t applied equally to all. Since 2009, the number of staff in HE being paid over £100,000 has increased substantially and VCs are earning higher salaries than the prime minister. At the same time, the proportion of HE expenditure spent on salaries is falling as more is being invested in new buildings.
In the last two years, surpluses in the sector have been over £2 billion, yet employers are claiming poverty. The increase in student fee income has more than offset cuts in government grants and full-time undergraduate numbers have held up despite the employers’ pessimistic forecasts.
Conference applauds those branches which have successfully negotiated the introduction of the Living Wage and urges our national and branch negotiators to prioritise campaigning for a Living Wage for all.
Conference calls on the HESGE to continue to work with other unions to campaign jointly in 2014, again aiming for a united response to any pay offer from the employers.
Conference therefore calls on the Higher Education Service Group Executive to:
1)submit the following to the HE joint union pay claim for 2014/15:
a)A one year settlement which is equivalent to the rise in the Retail Price Index (RPI) for the previous year, plus an additional percentage to begin the catch up necessary to make up for recent real terms losses; and
b)A demand that the Living Wage is extended to all staff working directly or for contractors in Higher Education, including the deletion of the bottom two points on the national pay spine and any points below the Living Wage on local pay scales.
2) Provide easy-to-understand materials on the impact of austerity on higher education workers and the ‘alternative’ economic policy
3) Seek widespread coverage of higher education pay issues in the women’s and black press as well as the mainstream press and media
4) Work with UNISON Labour Link to encourage the Shadow front bench in Westminster and sympathetic Member of Parliament (MPs), Assembly Member (AMs) and Member of Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to develop support for our pay claim.