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Employers express disappointment at UCU's strike action over pay, pensions and job security

The employers have expressed their disappointment at UCU’s decision to take industrial action across the higher education sector tomorrow. This UK-wide strike day encompasses action over pay, pensions and job protection against a background of major funding cuts across the HE sector.

The UCU has called its members out on strike over a 0.4% pay uplift for the academic year from 1 August 2010*. The pay uplift is in addition to an average 2.9% incremental rise which a majority of staff will also have received. UCU is also calling for a national job security approach. Employers recognise concerns about job security but believe that individual universities and HE colleges have robust policies and procedures and are best placed to deal with these concerns as autonomous institutions.

At the same time, staff in pre-92 universities are striking over reforms to the USS pensions scheme that are designed to protect final salary pension provision. Staff at post-92 institutions in England and Wales are also striking over as yet unannounced changes to the Teachers’ Pensions Scheme (TPS)**. Tomorrow’s strike action combines the results of three separate strike ballots.***

Professor Keith Burnett, UCEA Chair, said: “Employers are extremely disappointed by UCU’s decision to take industrial action.  We are concerned that UCU may be confusing its members, staff and students by combining three separate ballot outcomes with generic strike action.” 

“We look to UCU to work with HEIs during this period of change and challenge for all; not against them. There is much uncertainty in HE at present and this course of action will have the potential to cause further difficulties for students and institutions.” 

UCEA comment on pay and job security:
“The 0.4% uplift in pay was accepted by all three support staff unions (Unison, Unite and GMB) as the best offer that could be achieved in exceptionally difficult financial circumstances. This has been paid and backdated in spite of the dramatically worsening funding environment. Job security issues are a serious concern for all, but decisions on staffing, and handling workforce change, are matters for autonomous institutions.”

Employers Pensions Forum**** (EPF) comment on TPS:
“UCU has decided to take strike action over unspecified potential changes to the TPS.  At present it would seem that the UCU is the only trade union not awaiting the outcome of the current discussions between the TUC and the Government relating to public sector pension schemes.”

EPF comment on USS:
“The changes that were approved by the USS Trustee Board involving full UCU representation are moderate by any standards and include the retention of a final salary pension for all existing USS members. We call on UCU to end its boycott of the USS decision making process. This action undermines the scheme’s operation and UCU’s unique position of stewardship.”

ENDS


*UCU’s 2010/11 pay claim can be found at http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/8/o/jointnationalheclaim10.pdf

**fuller details on the USS changes which include ongoing final salary provision for existing members can be found on the Employers Pensions Forum website at http://www.employerspensionsforum.co.uk/en/pension-schemes/uss--some-facts-about-the-proposed-changes.cfm The Government is yet to publish it proposed changes to the public service pensions schemes which include TPS.

***The turnout figures are as follows:
USS ballot – 4,404 UCU members voted ‘yes’ (3,094 voted no) for strike action from an electorate of 21,264 UCU members. See http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=5352   
TPS ballot – of 6,990 returned ballot papers, 5,036 voting yes for industrial action, 1,954 voting no
http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/d/2/tps_heballotresult_mar11.pdf
Pay ballot – of 20,195 returned ballot papers, 10,067 voting yes for industrial action, 9,568 voting no http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/9/b/hepayjobsballotresult_mar11.pdf

****The EPF was established by GuildHE, UCEA and Universities UK in 2007 as a broad based forum for HEIs to discuss current and longer term pensions issues and to develop a strategy that will enable the HE sector to continue to offer staff access to high quality pensions schemes as an important part of the total remuneration package.

For further information:
Andy Fryer, Communications Manager (a.fryer@ucea.ac.uk)
Marc Whittaker, Communications and Events Officer (m.whittaker@ucea.ac.uk)
Tel: 020 7383 2444 Out-of-hours: 07827 157324.
USS Press enquiries: Ellen Gracey or Sally Ling at GR Communications 020 3159 5001
Outside office hours – 07766 460775

The EPF website can be found at www.employerspensionsforum.co.uk

UCEA’s website provides extensive background information relating to the 2010-11 Pay Negotiations http://www.ucea.ac.uk/en/2010_Pay_Negotiations/ 


UCEA notes to editors:
Staff have benefited from excellent pay awards in recent years equating to a cumulative total of at least 16.4% from 2006-07 to 2009-10. Between 2002 and 2009 (which included pay modernisation under the Framework) HE teaching professionals’ average earnings increased by 35.8% (44.5% all staff) compared to 30% in the whole economy (ASHE) and against a total 20% RPI increase over the period. Full-time HE teaching professionals’ earnings in April 2009 were £50,091 at the mean (£46,243 at the median). For details go to UCEA’s website: http://www.ucea.ac.uk/en/Pay_and_Reward/FactsandFigures.cfm

Sector pay has improved considerably in recent years; including a base pay rise of at least 16.4% from 2006-07 to 2009-10.  Pensions and increments costs mean that the overall increase to staff costs in HEIs will have significantly exceeded the headline pay awards. This 2010-11 pay deal has to take into account the fact that a significant number of staff will also receive incremental pay rises averaging 2.9%.