Addressing Low Pay with Progressive Pay Claims

Back to all Motions

2020 Higher Education Service Group Conference
26 September 2019

Conference Notes:

Many UNISON members in the higher education sector continue to suffer the effects of poverty wages. Whilst some progress has been made campaigning for universities to become Living Wage Employers, or at least agreeing to pay the equivalent, some are refusing to consider this very basic and reasonable demand.

Many senior managers point to equivalent jobs in the private sector to justify university wages, as if our members are onto a good thing, being slightly better off than many fast-food workers or bar staff on minimum wage. It is unacceptable that our members are struggling to afford the basics.

This union still has a policy to campaign for £10/hour for all workers and whilst this has been a feature of recent pay claims, it is yet to be realised, as is the 35 hour working week, across the whole sector.

Successive pay awards over the past decade have led to a deterioration in pay levels for all university workers. At the bottom end of the national pay scale, over time, the lowest spinal points have needed to be abolished to keep up with the minimum wage.

Progressive pay claims featuring lump sums for the lowest paid over the last five years have created an effect where the lowest spinal points have risen more in percentage terms than the medium and higher spinal points, but the effect is minimal. Our members at the lowest spinal points are still struggling.

Being able to say that we have won £10/hour for all our members would be a significant victory, drawing more members into our ranks to whom we can demonstrate the reasons for being organised.

A genuinely progressive pay claim should aim to emphasise the £10/hour minimum, which would in effect mean the abolition of spinal points 3 to 7. This could then be complemented with a lump sum payment from spinal point 8 which would be replaced with a percentage increase further up the spinal points.

Universities would then need to negotiate locally to readjust their own pay grades, as their lowest would need to be recalibrated.

Conference calls on the Higher Education Service Group Executive to:

1)Emphasise the need for £10/hour as a significant part of the joint pay claim.

2)Work with branches to continue to campaign against low pay.