UCU, UNISON and Unite trade unions at the University of Bradford announced that their members working in higher education will join the national walk-out on Thursday 31 October, following the breakdown of negotiations over pay in the sector.
Following years of below inflation settlements, higher education staff have suffered a pay cut of 13% in real terms since October 2008 – one of the most sustained cuts in real pay since the Second World War according to respected economics commentator Will Hutton. The squeeze on staff pay comes at a time when pay and benefits for university leaders increased, on average, by more than £5,000 in 2011-12, with the average pay and pensions package for vice-chancellors hitting almost £250,000. By contrast, staff at all grades have been offered a pay rise of just 1% this year.
UCU Head of Higher Education, Michael MacNeil, said: ‘Staff have suffered year-on-year cuts in the value of their pay. Quite simply, enough is enough. We urge the employers to reflect on the fact that they are about to face their first ever strike by three unions at the same time and come to the negotiating table to resolve this dispute. The suppression of academic pay is one of the most sustained pay cuts since the Second World War and, while strike action is always a last resort, the fact that staff are prepared to take this step demonstrates just how angry they are.’
The cumulative operating surplus in the higher education sector is now over £1 billion and many higher education institutions have built up cash reserves. Overall staff costs in higher education, as a proportion of income, have fallen from 58% in 2001/02, to 55.5% in 2011/12. The employers are now able to fund reasonable pay increases, investing in staff and thus in the quality of the learning experiences our students have at university.
Bradford University UCU Local Association President, Dave Ewen, said: ‘We invite our new Vice Chancellor to recognise the extent of dissatisfaction with the erosion of reward for what are increasingly demanding jobs. We are a union of professionals and we know that our members don’t like taking any action that affects students. However, in this action, we are making a case for greater investment in and defence of, the quality of the service we provide, which will benefit our students and the sector as a whole. The strike day will be followed by other steps, until the employers representatives return to serious negotiations.’
UCU, Unison and Unite members will be picketing University entrances from 7am on 31st October. UCU national officer and Deputy Head of Higher Education Paul Bridge will be joining the UCU Local Association picket outside the University main entrance from 7-8am along with Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Official Mark Oley.
Amongst the several events in our region, Bradford University union members will be supporting the rally in Leeds on 31 October, from 11.30 at the Parkinson Building steps, Leeds University. The rally is to be addressed by UCU national official, Paul Bridge.