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.

2017-18 Pay Consultation – 67.8% of Brighton members reject the offer

Thanks to all those members who participated in our consultative ballot over pay in June. We are very pleased that so many of you made an effort to engage with the branch and express your view, however you voted.

The results was a rejection of the offer by 67.8% of those who voted on a 40.6% turnout.

This has been submitted to UNISON’s national office and the Service Group Executive will decide on a course of action based on all higher education branches.

More news to follow when we have it.

2017-18 Pay Claim

The trade unions have submitted a joint pay claim for the increase due 1st August 2017.

Higher education unions submit 2017-18 pay claim

Key points from the claim are:

  • An increase to all spine points on the national pay scale of RPI plus £1,200, or RPI plus 3%, whichever is greater;
  • £10 per hour minimum wage with all HEIs to become living wage employers, ensuring all campus staff are paid at least the Living Wage Foundation rate.


For members working for the Students’ Union, we’ll be asking you what you want a pay claim to focus on, with a members’ survey, before submitting a claim to the SU management.

2016-17 Pay Ballot Result

The result of the national pay ballot across all universities was as follows:

3,381 voting in favour of taking strike action (54.9%)

2,782 voting in favour of not taking strike action (45.1%)

The Higher Education Service Group Executive (HESGE) met in September and voted to not take any action in the form of a strike, so we’re still technically in dispute, but not going to use the power of withdrawing our labour to further our claim for more.

Many members will be confused and unhappy about the outcome, in that a clear majority of action has been overturned by the HESGE. The rationale given for the decision is that the turnout was low and as such, this suggests that national support for action would also be low. Also, there was some doubt about the ability of other unions to take action on the same day, if it were to have gone ahead.

The turnout was, in fact, something that we are not officially allowed to have. Clearly it was low, and if you accept the national website’s figure of 50,000 members across higher education, allowing for some of them being Student Union or at universities which are not part of the national pay scheme, then the turnout is much lower than we’d hoped for. I would suggest that it’s around 25% and that the 50,000 is overstated or at least rounded up imaginatively.

However, I don’t accept that this is a sensible reason to overturn a majority, however small, and we all know that backing down at the first real test will invite an even smaller “final offer” this time next year. I’m not in favour of members losing pay for the sake of it, but I think a strike over pay would have been something to focus on, draw more members into the union and demonstrate that we are going to stand up for ourselves. Those members who thought “what’s the point” will have evidence to back up their view next year.

I can’t prove this with a secret ballot run by an external body, but I would have expected the turnout for our branch to be significantly close to, if not more than 50%, which I think demonstrates the large degree of separation across higher education between well organised branches and those that are struggling or led by people with a mentality that only ever wants to negotiate to limit the effect of defeats.

How we deal with this problem is open to discussion, but I don’t think it’s healthy for the union as a whole for members who want to fight being held back from doing so by branches that don’t or members who, not unreasonably, don’t vote or don’t see the point of striking.

So, the 1.1% pay award, or slightly more for grade 1, (which is due to be paid in October anyway) will almost certainly be it as far as this year’s pay goes. UCU meanwhile will fight on.

There will be the need for branches and activists to discuss with each other what went wrong and what we can do in the future.

Thank you for all those members who voted, whichever way you did. I’m proud of the way our branch made an effort to increase turnout and engage with all our members.

Ivan Bonsell, in a personal capacity


Pay Ballot is now live!

Higher education pay
ballot 2016


Vote yes to strike action in the higher education pay ballot

Reject the 1.1% pay offer


Ballot opens
30 August

Ballot closes
19 September

UNISON is balloting members who work in universities on whether to take strike action over the employers’ miserly pay offer of 1.1%. UNISON’s higher education committee recommends members reject the pay offer and take industrial action to seek an improved offer.

University Staff to be balloted on action over pay.


UNISON members in higher education are to be balloted on whether they wish to take strike action over their employers’ pay offer, which would see most staff receive a 1.1% increase.

UNISON’s  Higher Education Service Group Executive will be calling on members to reject the 1.1% pay offer and take strike action to put pressure on the employers to make an improved offer .




UNISON’s national Higher Education Service Group Executive (HESGE) met on the 10th May 2016 to consider the full and final offer made by UCEA, the national higher education employers’ organisation.


After a long debate the HESGE voted unanimously to reject the employers’ offer. The committee was clear that the offer of 1.1% for most staff, with the removal of the bottom pay point from the national pay scale and tapered increases from 3.1% on point 2 to 1.6% point 7, was not enough.


Ruth Levin, National Officer, said “The employers’ offer of 1.1% for the vast majority of our members is a pittance. We know that the money is out there in universities and that they can afford to give their staff a decent and fair wage increase this year.”


“Over the past five years our members’ real term take home pay has plummeted. This year’s offer doesn’t keep up with RPI and will only compound matters.”


UNISON has written to UCEA calling on them to begin the national dispute resolution procedure. This will be followed by a consultation of branches, with a recommendation that members reject the offer and move to an industrial action ballot.



Details of the HE pay offer can be found on the UNISON website.