Published: 14th January, 2019
More than 1000 members of the University and College Union (UCU) at Leicester University and De Montfort University are to be balloted for strike action in a row over pay and conditions. The ballot opens tomorrow (Tuesday) and closes on Friday 22 February. The pay row is a national dispute which covers 143 UK universities, including the two Leicester institutions.
The dispute rests on universities’ failure to improve on the 2% pay offer made at pay talks last May. UCU said that offer from the universities’ representatives – the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) – did nothing to address the falling value of higher education pay, which has declined in real terms by 21% since 2009, nor the worsening scandal of inequality and precarious contracts in the sector.
UCU wrote to university vice-chancellors in July asking them to intervene in the negotiations and persuade UCEA to return with an offer that better reflected the demands in the union’s claim. The union said that as no offer has been made by UCEA which UCU could recommend to its members, it had no alternative but to ballot for industrial action.
UCU had sought guarantees that universities would tackle the gender pay gap, insecure contracts and excessive workloads, as well as an offer that seriously addressed the fall in the value of their pay, which has dropped by 21% in real terms since 2009.
The University of Leicester is a particularly bad offender when it comes to the use of precarious contracts. According to 2016 UCU report, 48.5% of its staff are on insecure contracts – making it one of the UK’s 50 universities with the highest insecurity rankings. Its gender pay gap of 24% is also one of the worst in the sector.
Leicester University UCU Branch Chair Sarah Seaton said: ‘Staff have concerns about spiralling workloads, pay inequality and the continued casualisation of the workforce. Yet the university has and left us in a situation where we have no alternative but to ballot our members.”
De Montfort University UCU Branch Chair Martin Morgan-Taylor said: ‘Staff want these important issues to be taken seriously, and that includes the 21% loss in the value of their pay since 2009, which the recently imposed 2% pay offer does nothing to address.’