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Statement from NUS

October 24, 2013

NUS believes that lecturers and other staff in our universities and colleges should be properly supported and remunerated. We believe that fair pay is an issue of fairness in itself, but also note that there are very clear benefits to students that pay is at a level which attracts excellent staff, and helps to support the maintenance of a happy and motivated workforce.

The full article is pasted below and linked here

A UCU flyer that students may find helpful in further explaining the situation is linked here

Trade Union Industrial Action in Higher Education (Thursday 31 October)

This is an update on planned industrial action over pay by trade unions representing staff in higher education.

Following democratic ballots of their members in support of industrial action, three higher education trade unions (UCU, UNISON and Unite) have today announced a one-day strike for Thursday 31 October also known as ‘Halloween’. Not all higher education institutions in the UK will be affected by this action, though most stand to be.

The ballots followed the final offer of 1 per cent through the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education (JNCHES) in May 2013, which the unions have pointed out would mean academics will have suffered a real terms pay cut of 13 per cent since 2008. As Will Hutton put it in this weekend’s Observer, this is “one of the largest sustained wage cuts any profession has suffered since the Second World War”. It is not only lecturers but those staff on lower wages, such as porters, technicians, and secretaries who have lost out, and stand to lose out again.

This squeeze on staff pay comes at a time when pay and benefits for higher education leaders increased, on average, by more than £5,000 in 2011/12, with the average pay and pensions package for vice-chancellors hitting almost £250,000, according to the annual Times Higher Education pay survey.

To recap on NUS’ position:

•  NUS believes that lecturers and other staff in our universities and colleges should be properly supported and remunerated. We believe that fair pay is an issue of fairness in itself, but also note that there are very clear benefits to students that pay is at a level which attracts excellent staff, and helps to support the maintenance of a happy and motivated workforce.

• NUS believes the introduction of market forces into higher education are forcing universities to make rash economic decisions, incentivising them to engage in beauty contests rather than investing in the underpinnings of a quality education. Rather than allowing students and staff to be pitted against each other, NUS believes students and staff should find common ground and wherever possible, work together to defend education.

• NUS support the rights of all staff to challenge unfair practices, including to challenge pay and conditions which they democratically deem to be unfair.

• NUS recognises industrial action as an entirely legitimate means of raising such concerns. However, we have concerns where industrial action unnecessarily and seriously impacts on students – including on the marking and assessment of work, and the ability of students to graduate.

• NUS notes that it is entirely possible to undertake industrial action in a manner which limits negative impacts on students, and which actually encourages active support from students over issues of common cause and concern.

It is clear that the three trade unions (UCU, UNISON and Unite) now have a democratic mandate from their members to hold this planned one-day strike on Thursday 31 October. NUS is reassured that the three trade unions are committed to working nationally to limit the negative impact of the one-day strike on students, and indeed are working hard to win student support.

We hope the calling of industrial action for 31 October (and if that does no lead to the re-opening of negotiations itself) the day of strike action itself, will precipitate a speedy resolution to the ongoing pay dispute, and in such a way that provides a fair and sustainable settlement to higher education staff.

Of course, you must decide the way in which you can best represent and defend your members’ interests, in both the short and long term, in advance of 31 October, and beyond. If you have not already done so, we encourage you enter dialogue with your local trade union branch representatives to discuss the issues at hand, find common ground and wherever possible, work together to defend education.

NUS will continue to be in close dialogue with the trade unions nationally, and will be meeting the employers’ representatives, the University and College Employers Association (UCEA) later this week to offer our perspective and encourage efforts to satisfactorily end this pay dispute in a way that protects students’ interests.

Some of you might also have noticed that the planned one-day strike on 31 October will (coincidentally) occur on the same day as NUS’ Higher Education Zone conference, and we can reassure you that we are working to ensure the agenda appropriately reflects this very live issue.

If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact alex.jones@nus.org.uk

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