17 January 2016

HEC – vote for major pay campaign

UCU Higher Education Committee (HEC) voted unanimously for a major pay campaign starting next week (18th January). In addition, by a majority HEC voted for a motion from UCU Left members to ensure that a speaking tour would take place across the UK, sector Congress would have pay as a central theme of its activity and UCU would develop material demonstrating the decline in pay.

Members are telling us that the cost of living crisis is having a major impact on their ability to afford to continue in the sector. Even including the 2% pay increase we won in 2014, our pay has fallen in real terms by 13% since August 2008. Last year our pay rise was even worse -1%. As UCU Left demonstrated (http://uculeft.org/2015/09/h-e-pay-briefing-september-2015/) in real-terms the value of our pay, against CPI and RPI, while stabilised in the short term the overall trend is still downwards. Rent, transport costs and affordability of mortgages makes pay a key issue for so many of our members and therefore the union has to fight. Pay is especially acute for those members, and non-members, impacted by being on the lower grades or on hourly paid and fixed-term contracts. Therefore UCU has rightly placed equality as an important element of the pay claim.

HEC heard that the emerging mood for action, highlighted by the junior doctor’s strike, the all-out strike at the National Gallery against privatisation which won the reinstatement of the UNISON rep Candy Udwin and the unofficial strikes at SOAS that stopped the victimisation of UNISON rep Sandy Nicoll all indicate there is a growing mood for resistance. This mood is also to be found in political campaigns such as the support for Corbyn’s stance against bombing Syria.

Our pay campaign will have to lead to industrial action if employers continue to insist on lowering pay as a proportion of institutions total income. We know from previous campaigns employers will use punitive deductions for partial performance, so national strike action is needed to resist such plans.

The introduction of the new anti-union laws, with a minimum requirement of a 50% turnout, is designed to prevent national pay claims. While the laws have not yet been introduced we have a window of opportunity to win a pay dispute. We should take that opportunity.

All branches and activists must now prepare for the fact that:

  • UCU has agreed to a national pay campaign (and members are going to have material directed at them about pay),
  • There is to be a consultation process (so branches are going to need to engage with this by organising meetings and inviting speakers),
  • UCU is moving towards the prompt submission of a pay claim and ballot (so we are going to have to go all-out to win the ballot).

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