Higher Education deserves Fair Pay

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2016 Higher Education Service Group Conference
4 November 2015
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that Higher Education pay and conditions continue to erode following the year on year meagre pay offer from UCEA (Universities and Colleges Employers Association). We know that Universities budget for a figure higher than what is eventually offered by the UCEA negotiators. UK Universities have been described by the Tory Chancellor as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the British economy. Workers have not been rewarded for their contribution to this success to anywhere near the same level as senior managers and Vice Chancellors.

UNISON members working on university campuses across the UK have seen a continuing drop in living standards and an endless struggle to survive austerity. In the budget, the Chancellor announced changes to tax credits that will affect millions of working families across the UK, many of whom are UNISON members, providing high quality services. These changes to tax credits will hit hardest working families, and changes to thresholds will leave some families worse off by over £2000.

UNISON has condemned the latest workforce statistics published by Universities UK that show that women make up 54% of the total higher education workforce, but despite this 63% of those paid below £17,678 are women. This equates to over 20,000 female support staff working at UK universities. The same report highlights that whilst men make up 46% of the total university workforce, men make up over 70% of those staff paid over £57,032.

There is no valid argument why nearly half of all Higher Education Institutions (HEI) need to offer zero hour contracts to UNISON members that leave them in a vulnerable position and unable to rely on regular income. Following the Tory government’s first budget announcement in July 2015 many of our lowest paid members working in higher education in receipt of tax credits will see their family income slashed by up to £2000 as a direct result of the Chancellor’s attack on working tax credits. This directly hits those who are in work placing them and their families perilously close to becoming the ‘working poor’.

This confirms our struggle against austerity and its associated hardship. The higher education sector is failing to reward its staff despite the Chief Executive of Universities UK attributing the success of the sector to the “hard work of university staff”. Pay settlements across the economy have been running at between 2% and 2.5% over most of the last year. We must rise up and make all our voices heard in a campaign to contest the fundamental unfairness in a sector that can afford to pay more to its staff. Private sector pay rates are predicted to return to rates double that of the public sector over the coming year, with private sector employers expecting settlements of 2% over 2015.

A record increase in student numbers and a further hike in university fees will see higher incomes for universities. The Chancellor announced in his July 2015 budget he wanted to open the whole sector to new entrants and implement major reforms to ensure Britain has the best universities in the world. However, this will see our members doing more work for less reward as pay, pensions and terms and conditions are eroded.

Conference also notes the following:-

1)In 2015–16 HEFCE will allocate £3.97 billion in public funds from the UK Government to universities and colleges in England to “support them in delivering high quality education, research and related activities”. This provides public funds to institutions, but income is also derived from tuition fees and research funding amongst other income generating activities. Money is available in the sector to fund a substantial increase in staff salaries.

2)The sector is planning to invest over £15.2 billion on various projects during the next four years, an average annual investment of £3,811 million. This is nearly 50% higher than the previous four-year average (2009-10 to 2012-13) and does nothing to address the real terms downward trend of pay in the sector.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to:-

a)Devise a pay claim calling for 5% or £1000 whichever is the greater, to apply to all HEI salary pay points on the national payscale.

b)To work with relevant organisations such as the Living Wage Foundation to find ways to encourage universities to become accredited Living Wage employers to ensure that Higher Education members are paid a decent wage for the work they do.

c)Discuss and agree ways in which to reduce the use of zero hour contracts in the sector and to improve conditions for UNISON members already on them. There is no valid argument why some (nearly half) Higher Education Institutions need to offer zero hour contracts to UNISON members, whilst the majority of HEIs can manage without them.

d)Encourage members to lobby their Vice Chancellors on pay and where pay is less than the Living Wage, to ask for written justification which will be published to members highlighting why they cannot get decent and fair pay.

e)Hold discussions with sympathetic groups such as the NUS and publish any support for the Higher Education pay campaign 2016 / 17.

f)Devise ways in which information can be used to name and shame universities.

g)Raise the profile of the pay campaign amongst MPs (Member of Parliament), MSPs (Member of the Scottish Parliament) and AMs (Assembly Member) and UNISON’s SOGs (Self Organised Groups).