University of Bath agrees to reinstate living wage – we want this at Brighton!

woman holding living wage sign

UNISON has welcomed a commitment by the University of Bath to reinstate the living wage – currently £8.75 an hour – from next week, and seek accreditation as a living wage employer with the Living Wage Foundation.

But the union, which represents some 300 staff at the university, warned that while this is an urgently needed first step towards addressing low pay, more must be done to tackle the well publicised inequality at the university.

Commenting on the move, UNISON head of higher education Donna Rowe-Merriman said: “The scandal of low pay in the sector is something that vice chancellors across the UK can rectify by becoming living wage accredited employers. That alone will provide a pay rise for more than 10,000 people employed at UK universities.”

The University of Bath began paying the living wage in 2015, but stopped when the rate was increased to £8.45 an hour in November 2016.

The rate is set independently by the Living Wage Foundation every year, reflecting the cost of living.

The university will now start paying the 2017/18 rate of £8.75 an hour from 1 May, in a boost for the lowest paid staff in accommodation, hospitality and estates.

But negotiation and consultation is still going on over enhanced rates for weekend working – so staff who work weekends will not necessarily see their pay increase.

The three unions at Bath – UNISON, Unite and UCU – have all been campaigning for the living wage to be reinstated. In November last year, UNISON used local pay negotiations to ask the university to seek accreditation with the Living Wage Foundation.

The University Court voted overwhelmingly in support of the living wage in January this year, but the senior managers in the vice chancellor’s group refused to increase pay unless the lowest paid staff agreed to sacrifice their weekend working supplement.

University bosses scrapped this condition after UNISON moved to ballot affected members.

“We are pleased that university senior management has agreed to reinstate a living wage,” said branch secretary Christopher Roche this week.

“Staff and students were appalled when university bosses sought to force low paid staff to choose between their weekend protections and receiving a living wage.

“The prospect of a consultative ballot for industrial action seems to have persuaded university management to reconsider and agree to pay a living wage unconditionally.”

He added that the wage “is the absolute minimum any worker should expect, particularly in an organisation that chooses to pay its senior managers as much as those at the University of Bath.

“UNISON members stood their ground to demand a living wage and I hope they serve as an inspiration for other workers in the area.

“We look forward to collectively addressing the remaining problems at the university, including maintaining appropriate enhancements for staff required to work weekends, the lack of pay progression for staff on lower grades, their under representation in university governance and the widespread use of zero hours contracts.

“After a torrid 18 months of bad publicity, I hope the reinstatement of the living wage marks a turning point in the way our university is run.”

 

At Brighton, we have never managed to get the University to agree to become a Living Wage Employer. Some of our lowest paid members have now fallen behind the £8.75/hour threshold, in part, due to the 37 hour week here, which is higher than many universities. We’ll keep campaigning against low pay and long hours in one of the most expensive regions of the country.

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

 

 

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.

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

24037

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.