17 October 2023

Created on: 19 Oct 2023 | Last modified: 09 Nov 2023

Dear Colleagues

I write to remind you that the EIS ULA statutory ballot for industrial action in pursuit of the 2023 pay claim remains open and to urge you to vote.

I am reading “Power & Progress” by US economists Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson at the moment, and was struck by the following quote:

“…the broad-based prosperity of the past was not the result of any automatic, guaranteed gains of technological progress… Most people around the globe today are better off than our ancestors because citizens and workers in earlier industrial societies organised, challenged elite-dominated choices about technology and work conditions, and forced ways of sharing the gains from technical improvements more equitably.”

This quote reminds us that improved pay, sick/holiday paid leave, the 35-hour standard working week, Health & Safety legislation, pensions, equality laws etc came into being because people organised together and fought for them. Whether it be at the workplace or outside it to create the political conditions in which the government legislated for these changes.

We, the EIS, have been successful in Scotland in winning decent pay awards in further education and schools over the last 6 years or so. University lecturers however have had much larger real terms pay cuts than school teachers and college lecturers since 2008.  The UCU and the EIS have fought for larger pay increases, but universities have dug in and effectively paid as little as possible.

Universities seem, in recent years, to have changed their character. They have moved from the ‘academy model’ of academics leading academic institutions to a more business type model. There is a greater division than ever between university leaders and university lecturers.

Universities’ focus on growth and income, has come at the expense of investment in staff. Staff are universities' largest cost, but universities have made significant savings on staff costs in recent years while simultaneously seeking to get more out of staff.

University lecturers’ incomes have fallen in real terms, there is a significant reliance on casual contracts for undergraduate delivery, teaching has increased, the need for student feedback has grown, teaching fellows are increasingly doing the roles of lecturers and lecturers are doing leadership/management functions that were previously done by promoted lectures (or with remission time). 

Universities do these actions simply because they can. They have become harder and are willing to face down staff’s demands for more.

Universities are growing and building financial reserves, but university staff are not thriving in the same way or sharing the gains of university successes.

Ultimately, it is for university lecturers to challenge university management to seek to restore the power balance. One small step is voting in the ballot.

Best wishes,

David Belsey
Assistant Secretary - Organisation