Blog: Higher Education Pay – We’re worth more, we can’t afford less

Graphic with HE pay slogan. We're worth more, we can't afford less.

Guest blog by Denise Ward and Lorraine Brown

As the Northern Region’s representatives on the National Higher Education Service Group Executive, we thought we would let members know why we are recommending a vote for strike action in UNISON’s Higher Education industrial action ballot. The ballot opened on Friday 22 July and will close on Friday 26 of August 2022.

Higher education salaries are now worth a shocking 20% less, in real terms, than they were in 2009. Our pay claim was for an uplift of at least inflation (RPI) plus 2%; but with inflation now running at above 11% the final offer from employers falls well short.

They’re offering 3% to all on spine points 20 and above, with a taper of between 9% and 3.1% for those on lower spine points. The taper of 9% is not all that it seems, the employers by law had to increase the lower end of the salary scale by 6% to meet the mandatory government living wage. How shameful is that?

In negotiations we offered to accept a lower measure for inflation and to drop the extra 2% but the employers still refused to increase their offer. We gave the employers the opportunity to avoid our members going into a dispute, but they have declined this compromise.

So, we are left with no other choice than to take strike action, if we want our employers to improve their offer. Strike action is always the last resort, after everything else has failed, but we have gone through the negotiation process, including 2 dispute meetings, and still the employers have failed to listen to us.

We were praised for keeping the universities across the region running during the Covid pandemic; but kind words do not pay the bills, which are increasing daily. It is time for our employers to put their money where their mouths are.

It’s no surprise then, that we are recommending that our HE members vote ‘yes’ to taking strike action.

It is by voting that your voice will be heard; whichever way you vote, please vote today, if you have not done so already. Without a 50% return from members our hands will be tied, as the Tory’s Trade Union Act insists on this. This is shocking when you think there is no such demand at a General Election, one rule for the Tory’s and another for the trade unions, so hypocritical.

If you have not received your ballot paper, please contact 0800 0857 857 as your vote is vital as we’re worth more and we can’t afford less.

Denise Ward, Branch Secretary at Teesside University

Lorraine Brown, Branch Secretary at Northumbria University