The University and Colleges Union (UCU) have decided to postpone a planned marking boycott after a new pay offer from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA).
The original marking boycott was supposed to begin on 28 April. This was due to a dispute over pay increases in the year 2013-2014, when the UCEA had promised a 1% pay rise to staff.
Trade Unions have claimed that this 1% offer was unfair, as it was below inflation and would have meant a cut in real term wages. Additionally, it was seen as unfair to have the lowest paid staff on such a small wage increase when university vice-chancellors saw an average of 6% increase.
The UCEA has now offered a 2% pay increase for university staff for the academic year 2014-2015. This is up from a 1% increase that was offered to staff in 2013-2014, which resulted in industrial strikes.
The UCEA have warned that this increase of 2% is the limit of affordability for Higher Education institutions, and that this offer ‘only stays on the table if the current and planned industrial action is called off’. The UCEA have also pointed out that this 2% increase, combined with wage increments that 43% of staff are entitled to, will mean a 3.2% pay increase for most staff below the living wage. The National Union of Students (NUS) and Unison have said that this will bring 12,500 staff, who are currently working for below the living wage, to either match or exceed it.
NUS President, Toni Pearce, has commented that the NUS ‘have consistently supported the case for fair pay in higher education, particularly for the lowest paid’. She also welcomed the idea of postponing a marking ban because of the disruption it would bring to students.
However, the UCU Left have called for this offer to be rejected by staff and the marking boycott to go on as planned. Their decision is largely based on loss in real-term wages over the past 8 years. The union claim that real term wages have decreased by 15% since the 2006-2008 pay deal. Additionally, with the Retail Price Index (RPI) at 2.7%, a wage increase of 2% will likely see another loss in real term wages.
This dispute will be resolved on 1 May with a decision made either for or against further industrial action. If the pay package is rejected, the marking boycott will go ahead as planned from 6 May. If the ballot decides to accept the pay package, industrial disputes will be settled for at least another year.
— Anson W. Mackay (@AnsonMackay) April 3, 2014
— Keith Hallam (@keithhallam) April 17, 2014