Inflation is rising – and so are we!
The UCU Rising campaign was launched in September 2022 to tackle the ongoing issues from the previous USS & Four Fights campaigns. These issues have been amplified by the current cost of living crisis and the record raise in inflation. HE staff are now in a period of crisis.
Pay in Higher Education has stagnated since 2009, amounting to a real terms pay cut of 25 %. UCU Rising demands an inflation-based pay offer*, backdated to August 2022. Inflation in December 2022 was 10.5 % and so the 3 % pay increase enforced on us actually amounts to a 7.5 % pay cut this year alone. UCU Rising action in November, including a massive rally outside Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) negotiations, has resulted in an offer of a 4-5 % pay increase. We are clear that this is not enough. Eighty per cent of respondents voted to reject this offer in an e-mail survey at the end of January.
We demand Universities use their considerable surplus to protect their most valuable resource – their staff.
Many staff in HE work hours far in excess of their contracts. This unpaid overtime is expected as the status quo, and as budgets decrease and student numbers increase, it is only getting worse. University of Liverpool (UoL)** members reported working 50.2 FTE hours a week in 2021, with 67.8 % saying their workloads had increased significantly. Click here to model how the extra time you work in a week affects your hourly pay – a standard UoL or Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) contract assumes a 35-hour week. Members are currently undertaking Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) in the form of working to contract. That this constitutes a viable method of industrial action indicates the scale of the problem.
We demand our employers take action on workloads.
Precarious contracts are rife in HE, and UoL and LSTM are no exceptions. Zero-hours contracts are used to provide lecturers with employment only during term time. At UoL we have 810 staff currently employed under zero-hours contracts. A University should not be operating as a gig economy. We also have many staff employed on short-term contracts, with the School of Health and Life Sciences a particularly precarious workplace, with 370 staff employed on short-term contracts. UK law requires employers to offer permanent contracts to staff who have been employed for over four years. Institutions like UoL and LSTM do not proactively apply this. Get in contact with the branch anti-casualisation officers if this affects you!
We demand the elimination of casualisation in HE.
The final strand in the pay campaign is equality, but it is by no means the least. The mean gender pay gap currently stands at 16 %. The disability pay gap is 9 %, and the race pay gap is 17 %. When surveyed, 90 % of BAME staff members said they had experienced barriers to promotion. This is unacceptable. UCU Rising is calling upon the Higher Education sector to address these serious issues. The University has a stated commitment to racial equality. If black lives really do matter, the systematic underpaying of BIPOC staff needs to stop.
We demand the HE sector tackles pay inequality.
The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) was found to be in deficit when it was valued in March 2020, and the scheme was subsequently cut, with members asked to pay higher contributions, for a smaller pension pot on retiring. This was an artefact caused by uncertainty in the markets following the outbreak of COVID-19. Subsequent evaluation by the trustee in 2022 revealed that the scheme has assets of over £88 bn, and no cuts were required. UCU have secured a statement from USS that the cuts imposed in 2022 could be put back into pension pots and still leave the scheme in surplus. We are striking to bring Universities UK (UUK) back to the table, to reverse the cuts, and give us back the pension that we have all paid for.
An average member earning the starting salary for a lecturer stands to lose 35 % of their guaranteed retirement benefits. Click here to access the pension modeller to see how much you are going to lose under the changes.
We demand USS restore our pension benefits to 2021 levels as soon as possible.
Our members are not taking these issues sitting down. In October 2022, an aggregated ballot of members delivered strong mandates for industrial action for every institution in the UK, for both strands of the UCU Rising campaign.
Pay & Working Conditions
- In favour of strike action 81.1 %
- In favour of ASOS 88.8 %
- Turnout: 57.8 %
- In favour of strike action: 84.9%
- In favour of ASOS: 90.1 %
- Turnout: 60.2 %
During the UCU Rising campaign, we have seen our branch grow by 143 members (as of Jan 2023). Our November action saw active LSTM pickets for the first time since 2018. On the 1st of February, we delivered the biggest picket lines UoL has seen since 2018. We have a real chance of making some serious breakthroughs with this period of industrial action. If you aren’t a member, and you would like to help to contribute to making your life and your colleagues’ lives a bit better, then we would urge you to sign up to become a member of UCU. Are you a postgraduate researcher? You can sign up too. We consider you to be workers and your first year is free!
- Thursday 9 and Friday 10 February
- Tuesday 14, Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 February
- Tuesday 21, Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 February – paused for negotiations
- Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 February and Wednesday 1 and Thursday 2 March – paused for negotiations
- Wednesday 15, Thursday 16 and Friday 17 March
- Monday 20, Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 March
Please fill out the picketing survey here, to let us know what days you’ll be out on campus! The more we know, the better we can plan.
A reballot to extend the period of industrial action is opening the week commencing 20th February. Please check your personal details on My UCU to ensure your ballot paper is sent to the correct address. We recommend setting this to your home address. If you are yet to receive your ballot, please request a new one here.