UNISON’s university workers plan pay campaign

‘Higher education workers deserve fair pay’ conference declares as it sets out plans to build joint pay claim with fellow unions

“UNISON members care about the students they provide a world-class service to and they deserve recognition from our employers for this with the fair pay which we deserve,” service group chair Denise Ward declared as she opened the pay debate at the higher education conference in Bournemouth this morning.

Student numbers have increased and university incomes with them, which has seen some vice chancellors end up with pay and benefits as high as £451,000.

While many of these university chief executives “thoughtlessly spend thousands on mainly business and first-class travel and hotel rooms,” said Ms Ward, “many of our members struggle to find the cost of travel to and from work.”

And she continued: “Our members are telling us they are at breaking point and can’t wait any longer for a real increase in their income,” pointing to “clear signals” that members are ready “to reject derisory pay awards and fight for what is right and fair”.

Conference backed a campaign plan for fair pay for higher education workers, with Ms Ward pledging that negotiators “will work with our sister unions on the joint pay claim to be submitted to the employers.

“We will work closely together to ensure that our employers are very clear on the outcome our members’ expect and the strength of members’ feelings.”

Conference also condemned universities that refuse to pay the living wage, calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, as a minimum.

Delegates heard that the union will write to every vice chancellor of every university about becoming an accredited living wage employer and will demand a response.

“The gloves are off,” concluded Ms Ward. “We need to do all we can, there should be no barriers to this fair and justified demand.”

Conference also called on university employers to close the gender pay gap by 2020.

Service group executive speaker Liz Baptiste noted: “HE may not have one of the worst gender pay gaps – but let’s be clear, the higher education sector in the UK has a gender pay gap.”

The issues behind the gap are complex, Ms Baptiste said, but “our university employers have the ability to act and close the gender pay gap now,” and UNISON members voted to “send a clear message” to them.