The media continue to report on the challenging employee relations climate in a number of sectors, and many of you will be aware that we have our own challenges in Higher Education. With costs rising for all, and constraints on income, both nationally and locally we have been working hard to try and find a resolution to the current disputes. We are starting to see some hope of resolution in other sectors and this note provides an update about our position.
All of the national Trades Unions (for us that means UCU, UNISON and UNITE) are in various forms of dispute with the national employers’ bodies (Universities UK and the University and Colleges Employers’ Association – UCEA) regarding pay, the USS pension and a range of other terms and conditions. With the help of ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, a Government body) there are proposals being considered at national level in an attempt to end these disputes.
You will have seen, from other communication, that we have been asked to implement the 2023/24 award in two parts. In your March pay packet, you will have received the first part, with the second due in August. Dependant on grade, the deal is worth between 5% and 7%, on top of any pay progression (which for those eligible is worth up to a further 3% paid in April). This is similar to other recent deals (eg. RMT) and others hopefully reaching closure such as the NHS. The national Trades Unions have not accepted the pay award for this year, however, terms of reference have been proposed to renegotiate the overall pay spine for next year.
Since the last valuation of the pension scheme, and the change in benefits, we have seen a real improvement in the scheme performance. Latest communications from UCU and UUK build on these indicators showing a joint commitment to try and restore benefits by April 2024 and to provide more sustainable benefits and contributions for future valuations. We are hopeful that this will meet the needs of our own local joint statement, and significantly improve the situation with this highly-valued scheme.
This issue, often referred to as ‘anti-casualisation’ is an area where we have made real progress locally. We recently signed a collective agreement after many years of negotiation with our local UCU colleagues, and it is a testament to how forward-thinking we can be when we work together. It was great to see this recognised by UCU nationally. We believe that this puts us well ahead of most other Universities, and will influence the proposed national framework which will be negotiated under the new proposals.
We also have a joint working group with our local Trades Unions on pay gaps. We have taken local action to improve the situation and are looking forward to reaching agreement on a wider range of measures. This is also a key part of our new Statement of Equality Objectives. We welcome the proposals for more national negotiations on this topic, as anything which can help us make quicker progress will be helpful.
In our last Work and Wellbeing Survey we asked about workload using a tool called the HSE Management Standards. We are analysing those results and sharing them with Departments, just as is called for in the proposed national negotiation. This is the start of more joint work with our local Trades Unions on an important issue.
We are hopeful that the national Trades Unions will recognise that there has been significant progress on the national disputes. We have consistently been supportive of finding a national resolution to these issues and are pleased that the negotiations have made progress. Our hope now is that members of the Trades Unions will have the opportunity to vote on and agree the new proposals, so we can move forward and concentrate, together on being a great University.