More on 2018-19 Pay Negotiations

The five higher education unions (including UNISON and UCU) met UCEA, the employers’ organisation for the second of three scheduled meetings last week.

UCEA have published a document, which tries to make the point that higher education workers have done quite well for ourselves lately (!) and that universities are either short of money or will be soon.

Anyway, an offer of 1.7% was made, with a bit more for employees on lower grades. This is similar to the final offer last year, an whilst it’s encouraging that they’re looking to give more to the lower grades, it falls well short of what we’re asking for (7.5% or £1,500 and £10/hour minimum for all).

Both sides will meet again in mid-May and we’ll try to report back after that.

If the final offer falls short of inflation (RPI of 3.6%), then we’ll be looking to ballot members with a recommendation that we threaten action unless they come up with more.

HE unions and employers to meet again in May to talk about pay

 

 

Work-related stress? Come along to our lunchtime meeting this week

Image result for workstress logo

We’re pleased to announce that we have arranged for Bob Woods, from Workstress, the national work -stress network, to speak to UNISON members.

Bob will talk about how and why people feel stressed and what we as trade-unionists can do about it.

He’ll be here on Thursday 19th April, Room 117, Mithras House from 12pm to 2pm.

All UNISON members are invited for 12pm for a free light lunch and Bob will start at 12.30pm.

Feel free to drop in for some or all of Bob’s presentation and question & answer session.

 

We’re still campaigning for the University to run a proper survey on work-related stress, or we’ll do our own. More details to follow…

Inspirational Leadership?

Many people will be aware that the Vice Chancellor has been shortlisted for the Guardian’s Higher Education Inspiring Leader Award, due to be announced on 24th April.

Whilst we recognise that there has been change and a new direction of leadership since Debra’s arrival a few years ago, we think you’d struggle to find many workers or students at the University who would regard the architect of those changes as inspirational.

We’ve seen the closure of Hastings campus, resulting in the avoidable destruction of jobs, livelihoods and real educational opportunities for the town. For the first time ever, the University offered voluntary severance to members of staff whilst simultaneously trying to force compulsory redundancy on selected people. Reorganisations have taken place, which may have made improvements, but stress levels have risen and some people have been made visibly ill as a result of having no clear direction, management or reasonable accommodation in which to work.

Our attempts to get the University to carry out a stress survey have been documented elsewhere, but we’re not convinced that a failure to identity and deal with workplace stress is the actions of an inspirational leadership.

In short, the VC has taken steps to turn the University of Brighton into a higher education business with an emphasis on the paying student-customer always being right and the culture of Brighton – being prepared to be a bit different, forgotten, because we need to do what other universities are doing, because someone senior says so.

Whilst we don’t accept that league tables have anything to do with educational quality, by the standards set by the government, it’s fair to say that the University has not exactly improved.

If transforming the public service of higher education into degree-factories, openly competing with each other is the goal, then the VC has partially achieved the first steps, but for many people working here, this transformation is not inspired. It is the worst thing that could happen to a public service, as we’ve seen with NHS privatisation and outsourcing, linked to an obsession with big business being the solution to all our problems.

To be fair, it is true that Debra has made a real effort to promote the ideas of equality and diversity across the University and many people at Brighton are, quite correctly, pleased about that. However, genuine equality for all, means committing resources to making life easier for those with long-term illnesses, disabilities or caring responsibilities and we’re constantly being told that whilst the University will be sympathetic, when it comes to finances, there is nothing available to make life easier and consequently address inequality properly.

The VC has taken steps to address environmental issues, but as we’ve pointed out before, successive People and Planet Awards have shown the University to be hopelessly lacking in workers’ rights, scoring a derisory 10%, in part, as a result of the outright refusal to consider becoming a Living Wage Employer. In fact many lower grade staff, mostly women, have dropped below the real living wage of £8.75/hour.

So, we think that for the VC to be a truly inspirational leader, we’d like to see genuine change at the University. As a start…

  • Reducing the 37 hour working week
  • Equalising the annual leave – 35 days pro rata for all staff
  • Transferring casual staff (academic and support) to permanent jobs
  • Restoring Winter Holiday celebrations
  • Making moves to implement genuinely gold standard equalities policies
  • Introducing realistic wage restraint at the top to fund living wages at the bottom and becoming a Living Wage Employer

A happier, less stressed and valued workforce would undoubtably see a Vice Chancellor which committed to those things as inspirational.

2018-19 Pay Latest

University pay talks begin

UNISON describes first meeting as ‘constructive’

Montage of faces and pay up now logo

UK-wide pay talks for higher education got under way on the 26th March, involving employers and all five unions: UNISON, Unite, GMB and academic unions UCU and EIS.

Although no offer has been tabled, UNISON described the discussions as “constructive” and all parties have said they intend to make progress across all elements of the claim at the next meeting.

“UNISON has made it abundantly clear that our members want a pay increase that addresses the squeeze on salaries and rising living costs as well as institutional inequalities such as closing the gender pay gap and ending precarious employment in the sector,” says UNISON head of higher education Donna Rowe-Merriman.

The full claim is available on UNISON’s national website, but the two main points are:

  • An increase to all spine points on the 50 point national pay scale of 7.5% or £1,500, whichever is greater
  • £10 per hour minimum wage with all HEIs to become foundation living wage employers ensuring all campus staff are paid at least the foundation living wage rate

More updates to follow…

 

Pay Up Now Rally – Runnymede, Saturday 7th April

We’re supporting Surrey County UNISON branch to lobby Phillip Hammond MP

  • End the public sector pay cap!
  • £10/hour minimum wage!
  • No to Austerity!

We’ll be meeting in Brighton to travel to Egham and march to the Runnymede Memorial.

Invited speakers include John McDonnell MP, Dave Prentis UNISON General Secretary, Len McCluskey UNITE General Secretary, Jac Berry, Diana Leech and Dan Sartin NEC Members.

All welcome and we’ll pay for your travel costs if you want to come.

 

Just let us know if you’re interested.

Thanks to all members who made it to our AGM yesterday!

We had 60 people there, which was brilliant given the weather. Thanks in particular to those who made it from outside Moulsecoomb. We really appreciate their efforts to get here.

Sandy Nicoll from UNISON’s National Executive Council spoke and we discussed a wide rang of subjects – pay, stress, casual workers, annual leave, job description changes, the government review of higher education funding etc.

I’ll make sure we produce a video as soon as possible. Please let us know if you’d like to help.

Two members volunteered to be officers of the branch, but we’re always looking for more members to get involved so give us a shout if you’re interested.

UNISON Supports the Abolition of Tuition Fees and Fully-funded Free Education

Tuition fees review ‘needs to support wider access’

UNISON calls for the abolition of fees and free higher education in response to Theresa May’s review

stacked pound coins

“Any change in tuition fees needs to support wider access for students that need flexibility in study options,” UNISON head of higher education Donna Rowe-Merriman said today.

She was speaking after prime minister Theresa May admitted that students in England face “one of the most expensive systems of university tuition in the world”, and announced an “independent review of fees and student finance” to take place over the next year.

Tuition fees in England currently stand at £9,250 a year, which leaves student nurses, for instance, qualifying with a debt of more than £50,000.

“UNISON remains committed to a free education system funded by general taxation and is keen to contribute to any examination of fairer ways of resourcing post-16 education,” said Ms Rowe-Merriman.

She also said students and staff needed to be involved in the review, to make sure that “a radical overhaul of a broken system takes place.”

“Students take on the burden of debt whilst business does little to contribute to ensuring it gets a highly skilled workforce,” she added. “This needs to change as a matter of urgency.”

She pointed out that a well educated workforce benefits the economy and society as a whole, not just individual graduates.

Public sector workers including nurses, teachers, doctors, social workers and many more, are all educated at universities around the UK.

University of Brighton fails to match the Real Living Wage

Cambridge University is leading the way on pay, says UNISON, whilst Brighton lags well behind.

Responding to the announcement that the University of Cambridge is to seek formal accreditation as a real living wage employer,

UNISON’s head of higher education Donna Rowe-Merriman said: “Cambridge University’s commitment to give its lowest paid staff a fair wage is a move that urgently needs to be replicated in other universities across the UK. There is no place for low pay in higher education.

“Almost 12,000 staff working in universities earn below the real living wage, trapping them in poverty. That’s in stark contrast to around 5,500 senior university staff who are paid more than £100,000 a year.

“The huge disparity between the richest and the poorest university employees at some of the UK’s most respected institutions has to end.

“This small move at Cambridge goes a long way towards closing the inequality gap and guaranteeing a secure, decent wage for all staff at the university.”

Sadly, the real living wage of £8.75/hour is now more than the bottom two spinal points at the University of Brighton, which means that many grade 1 employees are being paid less than at many other universities, which have signed up to  become Living Wage Employers. The 37 hour week doesn’t help, but we want to see real movement so that Brighton University doesn’t get a reputation for being one of the most exploitative public sector employers in the region and across the sector.

Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)

We’ll only have a handful of members who are members of the USS, but if you are, this is important:

Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) At a meeting of the USS JNC yesterday, 23 January, Universities UK, on behalf of the university employers proposed changes to the scheme that would move all future accrual from April 2019 to a defined contribution scheme. With the support of the Independent Chair, these changes were agreed. The changes are in response to the increased in the deficit in the USS and are likely to result in a severe reduction in future benefits for all members of the scheme. Employers Proposals    From 1 April 2019 (at the earliest):

  • The salary threshold (the salary up to which defined benefits currently build up) will reduce to zero, subject to review at future valuations;
  • Future benefits will be built up in the USS Investment Builder (the defined contribution part of the scheme);
  • The employer contribution will cover the cost of future benefits in the USS Investment Builder, death and incapacity benefits, investment management charges, deficit recovery contributions, and scheme running costs;
  • Members will contribute 8% of pay, but will have access to a lower cost option of contributing 4% while still receiving the full employer contribution into USS Investment Builder;
  • The ‘match’ – the additional 1% employer contribution currently available – will be discontinued from the date at which the changes take effect.

What this means for members of the scheme Benefits already earned by both active and deferred members are protected by law and in the scheme rules. Benefits already being paid to retired members are not affected by these changes. This means that benefits in the scheme earned up till April 2019 will not be affected. From April 2019 the scheme will become a defined contribution (DC) scheme only. This means that instead of having a guaranteed income on retirement, the pension that members receive will be based on a annuity that will be dependent on the investment performance of the scheme and the annuity rates payable at the time of retirement. Effectively this transfers risk to individual members of the scheme from the employers. Whilst combined employer and employee contributions will remain at their current level (18% for employers, 8% for employees), DC schemes normally result in lower pensions for members. It is likely that these changes will impact most on the youngest and lower paid members of the scheme who can least afford a reduced pension. Scheme Consultation Arrangements USS are required to run a statutory consultation on the changes to the scheme. This consultation will take place later this year. The university as the employer in the scheme will organise the consultation in each individual institution that participates in the scheme. Employers are encouraged to hold meetings with all members of the scheme and all recognised unions, including UNISON. The employer is required to:

  • Provide written information to all affected employees details of the proposed changes
  • Undertake a consultation with affected employees and their representatives
  • Provide a report to the USS trustees of the views expressed by the trade unions and members, including oral responses received at consultation meetings

UNISON response  UNISON is extremely disappointed at the outcome of these negotiations. We believe that it should have been possible to negotiate a settlement that protected a significant element of the Defined Benefit Scheme. We believe that the changes proposed by the employers are unnecessarily severe and will result in significant detriment to scheme members. We will continue to campaign for these proposals to be reversed and call on all parties to re-enter negotiations. However, UNISON has not been party to the negotiations as UCU have sole negotiating rights in the scheme and were not consulted by UCU over any counter proposals. As you may be aware, UCU have already balloted members over the proposed changes and have announced their intention to take strike action in at least 61 HE institutions that offer USS to staff. It is likely that further details on the dates for industrial action will be announced shortly. The UNISON Higher Education Service Group have agreed to consult UNISON members who are members of the USS about balloting for industrial action to oppose these changes. We will write again shortly with further details on the consultation. It is very important that branches identify all members that are part of the scheme and update the RMS/WARMS to ensure that they are able to participate in any ballot for industrial action. If you have any questions concerning the USS or require further information, please contact Ben Thomas b.thomas@unison.co.uk