UNISON calls for fair pay over free iPads

UNISON is calling for fair pay over free ipads as many higher eduction staff are yet to receive a living wage while universities have been offering expensive incentives to students during the clearing process. These have included iPads, laptops or money towards their tuition fees – sometimes as much as £1,000 a student.

Yet over the last five years, below-inflation pay rises mean that the lowest paid higher education staff have lost the equivalen of between £663 and £1,173 a year.

UNISON believes that no employees in higher education should be paid less than the lving wage of £7.45 an hour (£8.55 in London).

In stark contrast to the lowest paid employees, the mid-point for the highest paid higher education staff is £242,000, with the highest paid employee receiving more than £500,000 a year. Head of higher education Donna Rowe-Merriman says: “There is clearly money available for some – UNISON believes in fair pay for those in higher education and that money should be available for all.”

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) said in a report published earlier this year that the financial results for the sector “are sound overall, and stronger than those projected in June 2012.” The equivalent funding body for Wales noted a surplus of more than £30m.

The HEFCE report also noted that “the reduction in staff costs 2011-12 was caused by a real-terms reduction in the average pay costs of employees.” So, Ms Rowe-Merriman explains, “the pay squeeze for UNISON members is actively contributing to the build up of cash.”

The employer’s organisation UCEA has also shown that the financial position of higher education is healthy, with a surplus of more than £1bn recorded in the 2011-12. There is also growing investment in new buildings, with large numbers of projects underway.

Ms Rowe-Merriman continues: “This shows that the sector has the money to make an improved pay offer that fairly reflects the contribution of staff providing services to students.

“The need for fair pay for higher education employees is urgent – with incomes squeezed to breaking point through a combination of rising prices, high energy bills, increased housing costs, pay cuts, reduction in welfare benefits and introduction of the bedroom tax.

“UNISON is dismayed by the refusal of nearly half of the higher education institutions to pay the Living Wage to the lowest paid employees across the sector.

“UNISON members voted to reject the employer’s offer of 1% in a recent consultation and so we will be holding an industrial action ballot in September. We will be calling on members to take strike action as this is the only way to achieve an improved pay offer from the employers.”

UNISON branches and regions will be arranging meetings across the country so that members can ask about the pay offer, the ballot and related issues. Make sure that you are informed by attending a meeting, keeping up to date with newsletters, follow us on Twitter @UNISONinHE and keep in contact with your branch for the latest developments.