‘Every higher education worker should get the pay they deserve’

Pay, pensions, equality and climate dominate discussion at UNISON higher education conference

higher education delegagtes voting

Pay in universities has fallen by 15% over the past 10 years, delegates at UNISON’s higher education conference in Milton Keynes heard today. At the same time, universities’ income has risen and is now £38.2bn a year.

Conference also pointed out that reserves are at a record £49.2bn – a 300% increase since 2009/10. In the last financial year alone, universities increased their capital spending by 6.4%, while wages for most rose by just 2%.

That was the background against which delegates set out UNISON’s plans for this year’s joint pay claim, which will be drawn up with other campus unions.

That background is “shocking and appalling”, service group chair Denise Ward stated as she moved the successful motion setting out the union’s aims, and demanded “fair pay for the many, not for the few.

“Every higher education worker should get the pay they deserve,” she declared.

Conference agreed and called for a joint union claim including a pay rise of RPI inflation plus 5%, a minimum hourly rate of £10 an hour and for all universities to become accredited living wage employers with the Living Wage Foundation.

Delegates stressed the need to continue the campaign against low pay, passing a specific separate motion on the issue.

In a day of wide-ranging debates, delegates also discussed the campaigning work to defend pensions across the sector, promote equality, combat the far right and back mental health.

But there are issues beyond the campus workplace, and delegates categorically stated that “climate change is a trade union issue,” calling for a just transition to a carbon neutral economy for workers, with universities leading by example.

Finally, conference vowed to recommit the union to a higher education sector for the many, as it debated the general election outcome and the impact on higher education.

Recalling the election campaign, service group executive speaker Kath Owen reminded delegates: “The Tories hide from their crimes of underfunding public services and run away from scrutiny. We need to remember this in the battles ahead.”