Why are we in dispute?
Following the results of an indicative e-ballot – in which 83.1% of participating UEA members voted to reject the pay offer and 62.2% voted in favour of industrial action – your UCU branch committee has joined branches across the UK in recommending that members vote to reject the current pay offer and support industrial action and action short of strike. Members should have already received their ballot papers in the post. If you have not yet received yours, please ensure that your mailing address is up to date via the My UCU webpages and the you can request a replacement online.
Our action is not taken lightly, but the USS dispute has shown that strike action is sometimes the only tool that can defend our members from unnecessary cuts to their current and future pay. If it were not for members’ brilliant commitment to the 14 days of action over the USS strike, many of us would now be facing huge cuts in the value of our pensions. Pay matters in the same way.
While coverage of this dispute may focus on those towards the top of the University’s salary scale, union members know that this is not the reality for many colleagues, especially those in professional services and the hundreds on hourly paid, fractional, and insecure contracts. Our even more poorly paid colleagues in UNISON and UNITE are also balloting at the same time. Consequently, this vote represents a rare opportunity to demonstrate solidarity in the face of an iniquitous pay regime that generates huge inequalities. We must resist any narrative that seeks to divide our membership and encourage members to discuss the dispute with colleagues in other unions. Fighting for fair pay is a fight for all staff members.
Despite claims of unaffordability, universities have never had so much money. Indeed, institutions in the UK are now sitting on reserves of more than £44 billion. Last year UEA had a budget surplus of £6 million.
Useful information about the pay dispute
- UCU webpage on the 2019/20 dispute
- Lecture from Robyn Orfitelli, UCU Pay Negotiator from UCU Sheffield that not only outlines the current pay deal, but also questions the claims made by employers.
- UEA’s own 2017 report on the gender pay gap shows that women are paid 18.93% less than men based “on mean gender pay gap based on hourly rate of ordinary pay”.
- UEA’s accounts for 2017-18 show that the VC received a salary increase of 4.8%, taking his total emoluments to over £300,000.
- The same accounts found that the VC’s salary is now 790% of the “median” salary at UEA. Furthermore, the calculation used to generate that figure (pg. 29) was based on the full-time equivalent salaries of part-time and fractional workers. Consequently, this calculation not only hides the significant impact of casualisation on campus and within our sector, but is also likely to significantly increase the median salary of workers and reduce the gap between our wages and that of the VC.
More from our members and committee on the current pay dispute
Last year the Vice Chancellor wrote to staff and informed us that this was a time when, “UEA needs to be investing in our campus and facilities in order to remain competitive in an increasingly turbulent higher education marketplace”. We in UCU believe that it is people – our fellow members, colleagues, and students – that make the university and we deserve better. As such, we urge you to vote YES to ASOS and YES to STRIKE but above all, do VOTE! Remember, the ballot closes 30 October, so send yours off today!