Higher Education (HE) Pay Ballot for strike action Sept 2016

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2017 Higher Education Service Group Conference
10 November 2016

Conference notes that Higher Education members were balloted for strike action after employers failed to improve on a 1.1% pay offer for the majority of staff. The Higher Education Service Group Executive (HESGE) recommended that members vote ‘YES’ for strike action in the September 2016 HE Pay Ballot.

During the campaign, the growing pay inequality in the sector was highlighted to members with a salary calculator that clearly identified how far their salaries had fallen behind the cost of living. Branches across HE launched events and engaged with their membership pushing for a ‘YES’ vote for strike action. Using the loss of salary calculator tool at these events, members were shocked to discover that their pay had fallen behind inflation by many thousands of pounds over several years. It was also noted that the current pay offer was not even enough to cover the 2016 increase in employee statutory pay deductions in most cases.

The pay ballot, held in accordance with applicable law, returned a ‘YES’ vote of 54.9%.

A statement was then issued following a meeting of HESGE:

“UNISON’s HESGE met on 20 September to discuss the results of the industrial action ballot on the 2016/17 national pay offer. A long and considered discussion took place, which took into account the close vote in the ballot, a disappointing turnout and the knowledge that it was likely that if UNISON did take strike action it would not be with all other unions, due to notable differences in positions and timetables.”

This decision caused consternation in branches with many members left confused by the apparent derogation of a properly taken democratic mandate.

When following up for more information, branches appeared to be being ‘fobbed off’ with no information on HE membership numbers, hypotheticals and broad assumptions that those not voting were saying “no”.

This motion calls on Higher Education Service Group Executive to:

Arrange an independent review of its actions in relation to its response to the pay ballot which:

1)makes recommendations regarding accountability;

2)allows for lessons to be learned;

3)considers how to better communicate decisions to branches and to members;

4)Considers the implications for future ballots now that the precedent of overturning a democratic vote has been set;