UNISON slams imposition of disputed pay offer in Scottish universities

UNISON, the union for higher education staff, has lambasted the increasing number of Scottish universities that are imposing this year’s disputed pay offer of 1.8%.[i]

This imposition has been directed by the UK-wide Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), just as UNISON and the academic union UCU prepare to ballot for industrial action. UNISON says this is the second consecutive year that a poor, disputed pay offer has been imposed on university workers, over the heads of their representatives.[ii]

Lorcan Mullen, UNISON Scotland’s lead officer for higher education, said:

“This employer behaviour is completely contrary to the Scottish Government’s Fair Work agenda, and is far removed from the relatively progressive collective bargaining norms in Scottish public services. It’s also not a good look when every University principal in Scotland earns more than the Prime Minister and First Minister, and at least four earn more than both put together.”

UNISON is calling on Scottish universities to exert pressure within UCEA to push for genuine collective bargaining that respects higher education workers and lives up to the progressive aspirations of their institutions.

The union is also calling on the Scottish Government and Scottish Funding Council to work with trade unions to advance the Fair Work agenda in universities, as set out in the Further and Higher Education minister’s last letter of guidance to the sector.

Lorcan Mullen added:

“The Scottish Government’s Fair Work agenda mandates all employers to show respect to their workforce, and make space for their representatives’ views on workplace matters.

“Repeated imposition falls well short of those standards, and leaves most Scottish university workers worse off than their friends and family members in the NHS, schools, councils, colleges and the civil service in this year’s pay round. Universities are autonomous institutions, but given their taxpayer funding, they should at least abide by the standards of the broader Scottish public sector.

“Given the repeated, justified controversies around executive pay in higher education, these high-handed tactics only reinforce the perception of an ‘upstairs, downstairs’ culture in our universities. If universities refuse to live up to their professed progressive values, UNISON and other unions will organise our members to win better.”

For more information contact Lorcan Mullen, UNISON regional organiser, on 07903853116

[i] The pay offer is tapered, with a slightly more generous offer to the lowest paid. 1.8% is the cost of living rise most university workers will receive under this imposed pay offer.

[ii] Napier, UWS, St Andrew’s, RGU and Aberdeen have all imposed according to reports from UNISON branches, and we expect other universities to follow the UCEA guidance.