On the 3rd of December, 2013, university staff belonging to the University and Colleges Union (UCU), Unison and Unite will go out on strike in protest at a proposed pay settlement put forward by the University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), an organisation that represents universities in the UK. The UCEA are proposing a pay increase of just 1% for both academic and non-academic staff. Although on paper the 1% increase is a pay rise, in practice, because it is below inflation, the agreement will cut the value of staff wages.
The extent to which this pay dispute affects all of us amounts to far more than a day of missed lectures or a disrupted workplace. In recent years student fees have risen sharply; at the same time, the money the university spends on the staff supporting students has fallen. The increasing price of education and the decreasing availability of jobs are driving students to prioritise what they perceive to be in their immediate interest. In fact the interests of students and staff cannot be separated. In order to protect the quality of the university, its research and the experience of students, we must recognise that an investment in staff is an investment in students.
We invite people to sign the letter below by clicking ‘leave a comment/reply’. (If you have comments or queries about the open letter please make them here – any comments or queries made below the letter will be moved to this page, where they can be addressed by PPU and visitors to this blog.)
Dear Professor Thrift,
We are writing to express our concern at the proposed 1% pay increase for staff at the University of Warwick. This figure is below the rate of inflation and so represents a reduction in the value of wages paid by the university. We understand that this below-inflation pay deal continues a trend in the HE sector that has seen a real terms wage decrease of 13% for university workers in the past four years. This devaluation of staff has taken place in a period in which the percentage of HE sector spending on teaching staff has shrunk from 58% to 55%. Finally, we observe that by 2012 the University of Warwick had accumulated a surplus of £31m. This suggests that the current pay settlement is neither necessary nor inevitable.
As you will be aware, the vast majority of students on taught courses at this university are expected to pay for their study. You will also be aware that the amount incoming students are expected to pay has recently risen dramatically. We are dismayed that at a time in which the university is charging more than ever before for education, it is decreasing the amount that it pays for educators and the staff that support them. An investment in staff is an investment in students.
We support union members in their demand for a fair pay settlement. We hold the University of Warwick and the UCEA responsible for the loss of earnings and contact time that will result from industrial action on the 3rd of December. We are angered that students are put in a position where they must either forego valuable contact time, or cross a picket line of their staff and peers.
We urge the university to recognise the damage its current actions are doing to itself and those that depend upon it, to respect its students and staff, and to find a pay solution that demonstrates its recognition of its primary function in society. Finally, given your position as Vice-Chancellor of this university, and given that you yourself have recently benefited from a pay increase of £42000, we urge you personally to bring your influence to bear on resolving this iniquitous situation in a fair and timely manner.