The threatened exam-marking boycott has been called off as Higher Education trade union groups accept the two per cent pay rise offer. The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) announced their ‘full and final’ pay offer of a 2% rise to lecturers’ salaries in April.
UCEA’s offer also includes an increase of 2.2% to the lowest paid staff, and will bring the majority of University staff to a pay grade above the Living Wage. This represents the highest proposed raise for staff in the University sector seen in recent years. It has been made clear by the UCEA that the offer is subject to the limits of affordability for individual institutions, and that it is made on the condition that all current and planned industrial action is called off.
The offer will see University staff’s pay raise to a level exceeding three current cost of living indicators, in direct response from UCEA to concerns from Trade Unions that pay levels have been falling behind the costs of living in recent years.
Union groups in Leeds have been carrying out demonstrative action since November, including three major strike actions. The strikes were carried out in response to the former pay raise of one per cent being seen as too low to keep up with living costs.
Union groups were also angered by a perceived wage increase of five per cent for Vice Chancellors across the country in the last year, according to the Universities and Colleges Union. UCU also claimed that since 2009 staff have suffered a 13 per cent real-terms pay cut.
The latest strike action was due to take place on April 28, when lecturers affiliated with UCU would refuse to mark essay and exam papers in accordance with a nationwide movement.
Ann Blair, President of UCU’s Leeds branch, said: “The 2% offered for 2014/15 has vindicated the unprecedented industrial action that our members have had to take. It is clearly more than would have been achieved without action and is the first settlement to break the 1% ceiling in the public sector.”
She added: “The negotiations continue on the equality aspects of the claim which would also not have been conceded without the action our members have taken.”
Blair also thanked students for their support for staff during the campaign.
Alice Smart, the Union’s Education officer said: ‘“While we supported UCU’s campaign for fair pay, we had concerns about the proposed marking boycott as it had the potential to cause serious problems for students and even stop them from graduating on time. I’m sure many students on campus will share my feeling of relief that we will not see this type of action used this academic year. While the 2% rise may not be as much as staff members deserve, it’s certainly a step in the right direction and I’m particularly pleased to see Universities making a greater commitment to paying their staff a Living Wage. Ultimately I’m glad that the pay dispute is over as it means students can complete their year of study without fear of any more disruption to their education through marking boycotts or strike action.”
Photo: Leo Garbutt