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Employers' 'full and final' pay offer exceeds cost of living and improves position for lower paid

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) and the HE trade unions* met yesterday as New JNCHES** to seek to conclude the pay negotiations for 2014-15 and draw last year’s dispute to a close. The employers’ ‘full and final’ pay offer of 2% is substantial, exceeding the current consumer price index (CPI) *** and the two other official cost of living indicators. The offer also includes an increase of 2.2% to the lowest point and an offer of joint work to examine the use and usefulness of the first pay point on the 51 point scale. If accepted the increase will bring the vast majority of staff in the sector on the lowest points of the pay scale to rates equivalent to or above the Living Wage****. Many HEIs already pay at or in excess of the Living Wage figure, as well as providing generous sickness, holiday and pension benefits, none of which are reflected by the Living Wage campaign.

The employers have made it clear that this pay offer, considerably more than those made in recent years, is at the absolute limits of affordability for HE institutions and only stays on the table if the current and planned industrial action is called off. Taken together with incremental progression which 43% of employees will be eligible to receive, the total pay increase envelope available to staff covered by these negotiations comes to at least 3.2% and more than this in many institutions*****. The full and final offer is at a level that exceeds three current cost of living indicators and seeks to reflect the unions’ concern that pay levels have been falling behind over recent years.

Trade unions are now considering the offer and will be consulting with their members. It has been mutually agreed that the other important non-pay elements in the trade unions’ claim will be discussed at the New JNCHES meetings still to be held later in April and May.

The employers and trade unions have used the negotiating meetings to have a full exploration of the issues and constraints for all parties. It is acknowledged that the recent annual pay increases have been restrained, with HE institutions facing on-going financial pressures, uncertainty and change. The employers explained that while none of these factors have abated, their member HE institutions have been determined to make a substantial offer, at the limits of affordability, to reward their much valued and hard-working staff this year.  

Professor Chris Gaskell******, speaking for UCEA’s team yesterday, said: “Yesterday’s meeting was a constructive one, with both sides exploring all options and seeking realistic outcomes that can be acceptable to all. The employers have made a substantial final pay offer of 2% on all pay points with a commitment to discuss further the other important elements of the claim. We look to trade union colleagues to consult their members and we hope that they will consider carefully the real value of the offer being made. All in the sector share an aim to conclude this year’s negotiations successfully and draw a line under last year’s dispute.”


* EIS-ULA, GMB, UCU, UNISON and Unite.
** Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff. 
*** The current Consumer Prices Index (CPI) grew by 1.6% in the year to March 2014. CPI(H) is at 1.5% and RPI(J) is at 1.8%. See - www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_358581.pdf
**** Hourly rates vary due to differences in contractual hours at HEIs. Not all HEIs use the lowest points on the pay spine, but any staff paid on the bottom pay point working a 35 hour week (the working week at 41% of HEIs), will earn an hourly rate equivalent to the current Living Wage. The hourly rate at point 2 for those on a 35 hour week would be £7.83 per hour and any staff still recruited on point 1 will receive incremental progression to point 2 within a year of service.
***** The pay increase envelope includes an additional average 1.22% set aside to pay for increment progression plus circa 0.3% for merit and contribution pay in many HEIs. With the 2% per cent offer, the combined value of pay increases at between 3.2% and 3.5% in 2014-15 would cost around £350 million.
****** Professor Chris Gaskell is Principal of the Royal Agricultural University and a member of the UCEA Board. He chaired the Employers’ side in place of Professor Paul Curran at this re-scheduled negotiating meeting.

ENDS

For further information: Please contact Andy Fryer, Head of Communications and Membership (a.fryer@ucea.ac.uk) or Marc Whittaker, Communications and Events Officer (m.whittaker@ucea.ac.uk). Call 020 7383 2444.


Notes to Editors

  • The trade unions joint claim for 2014-15 contained two parts: pay and the pay-related equality matters. The pay claim does not refer to a figure, but seeks an offer that addresses the cost of living, the “real terms pay gap” due to pay awards not meeting inflation over recent years, and to ensure that no HEI pays any member of staff below the Living Wage. The pay-related equality claim includes the gender pay gap, hourly paid and zero hours contracts, disability leave, job security, workloads and an extension of the 51-point pay spine.
  • The New JNCHES negotiating timetable is a process that usually runs across meetings in March, April and May. This forum allows for three negotiating meetings and more if required.