Chair’s Blog December 2018

Pay and Pension concerns

The Conservative government has recently announced an increase in TPS contributions from our employers which is already being used by the employer as an excuse for further attacks on members' pay. One of the main drivers of the increased cost of the TPS pension on the employer is their own year on year below inflation pay awards. It is a fact, that under inflation pay awards are directly linked to the requirement on employers to increase their contributions to TPS. The employer, by restricting pay, has created the circumstances in which they now find themselves and, to add insult to injury, is now seeking to further abuse members by using this as an excuse to hold down pay. It is difficult to imagine a more perverse set of circumstances.

As a national pay negotiator I see the mechanism of the framework for pay negotiations fail year on year, employers refusing to engage with the gender pay gap, the issue of creeping casualisation in the sector or a fair pay rise.

At a recent JNCHES meeting with the employer it was clear they were delighted with the failure of the recent national ballot to reach the anti-trade union law threshold of 50% turnout. Overall the meeting was the usual mix of frustration, disappointment and push back generated by the employers side which was sprinkled with a few unnecessary, but revealing, comments about the dispute not going to be resolved as far as the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) are concerned and how they imposed the 2% pay uplift last August in the interest of the majority of staff in the sector who are not members of a trade union.

At that meeting UCU pushed back on UCEA on gender pay in regards to joint working and the refusal of the employers to share their survey data. Their action undermines the current joint gender work and now any further reports will effectively be solely a UCEA report. UCU will also do its own research and reporting.

My role as a national negotiator in relation to pay, is to ensure that the mechanisms that the union engages in for pay negotiations provide maximum flexibility in responding to pay offers. Pay is a major issue for members and the erosion of pay in both HE and FE must be challenged more effectively. As it stands, we, along with sister unions in the sector, are tied into a joint negotiating mechanism that is, frankly, not fit for purpose. It ties your negotiators hands in relation to the timing of 'talks' and the taking of industrial action. UCU has commissioned an investigation into the suitability of the mechanism and will be acting to ensure that the mechanism is changed to better fit the needs of our members and the capacity we have to take effective industrial action when necessary.

Julia Charlton –Northumbria University Branch Chair

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