Created on: 19 May 2022
I’m writing a quick update today to let you know what is happening in the Higher Education Sector and what we have being doing to represent you over the last few months.
The 2022/23 New JNCHES pay round has concluded with a final pay offer of 3%. An initial offer of around 2.75% was made, and the unions negotiated hard to get this offer increased to 3%. The attitude to the negotiations on the Employers’ side was unhelpful and disappointing. Subsequently, a joint letter was sent to all Principals and Vice Chancellors by the joint trade unions in order to express concern on the Employers’ side lack of willingness to engage in meaningful negotiations.
In addition to the 3% pay offer, no progress was made on forming the Scottish sub-committee of New JNCHES, meaning no Scottish level sectoral bargaining forum currently exists in the Higher Education Sector. This makes Higher Education the only part of the education system in Scotland which does not have Scottish level discussions on what is a devolved area of policy. Furthermore, national sectoral forum is a key part of the Fair Work Framework.
The EIS-ULA Executive Committee decided after much discussion, to reject the pay offer directly, given the pressure on members’ pay in recent years; with sub inflationary pay rises the norm and with an ongoing cost of living crisis fuelled by high inflation.
The EIS has declared a dispute with UCEA over the unaccepted low pay offer and lack of progress in a Scottish sub-committee of New JNCHES. The dispute will have at least two dispute meetings to see if we can improve the pay offer on the table by negotiation. Once those two meetings conclude (this is likely to be mid-late June), we will seek your views with a consultative ballot. I should advise you, however, that historically the Employers have never improved the pay offer with a dispute process.
The reality is that members will need to consider in the next couple of months whether a 3% is sufficient for them or whether they are willing to take industrial action to obtain an improved pay offer. The decision regarding that choice will be members for to make.
Read about the 2022/23 pay round here, including the offer letter from UCEA.
As you are no doubt aware, the backdrop to the 2021-22 has been UCU and Unison dispute and strike action on the 2020-21 pay offer and separate USS pension dispute. UCU balloting was done on a university-by-university basis and has been stymied by the strictest trade union laws in Europe. The Employers are not making any meaningful effort to resolve these disputes despite large number of members being involved.
You may recall that our own statutory ballot for pursuing the 2020-21 pay dispute failed to meet legal thresholds.
We seem to be in a position of having intransigent senior managers in the Higher Education who have been systematically reducing staff costs as a proportion of Higher Education expenditure over the last 10 years or so. Their own pay, however, has continued to rise disproportionally.
The EIS-ULA Executive Committee is seeking ways to address pay issues for members given the challenges produced by the Employers national strategy of pay restraint at New JNCHES and legal hurdles associated with industrial action.
A final pay offer on the delayed 2021/22 pay round has been received from SRUC and a consolidated pay offer of £1100 is being offered. This is improved from an initial offer of £850 which was achieved by negotiation with the employer. A consultative ballot will be opened this week, with a recommendation from the SRUC Branch Executive Committee to accept this offer.
If you work at the SRUC you should expect to receive an electronic ballot. If you have not received a ballot by Friday, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request one.
You can find the pay offer here.
The numbers of people infected with Covid-19 are still relatively high, though they are falling slowly. As the UK and Scottish Government have stopped free LFT tests, tracking the pandemic has become more difficult. During the period of opening up, the EIS have met regularly with Government officials, engaged with the writing of guidance for employers and actively sought to limit the damage done to staff and students by Covid-19 in the Advanced Covid Recovery Group, where the EIS has a seat.
Whilst the statutory regulations on Covid restrictions are now gone, we strongly encourage members to take precautions against this disease. Please ensure that where you spot any risk which can be managed at your place of work, that you raise those issues with your local EIS Rep and local managers who should be acting to mitigate the risks. If you are at enhanced risk (for example if you have a serious underlying health condition) you can ask to have your workplace situation individually risk assessed and for reasonable adjustments to be made wherever that is possible. While it is no longer required by law, precautions of distancing where you can, wearing masks and ensuring you have well ventilated work areas is important. While staff uptake of the vaccine is very high, students are less likely to be fully vaccinated (less than half of 17-24 year olds have had the 3rd vaccine for example) so it is important to keep being cautious and pointing out to your employer (via the union) anything that can be done better to reduce the risks to those on campus.
A Health and Safety at Work survey is being launched and is open to all EIS-ULA members. It takes around 10 minutes to complete and is intended to be used by EIS-ULA to inform our negotiations with government and employers over the coming year. The survey will be sent to your registered email address shortly and we’d appreciate your participation.
Our new EIS-ULA President is now Tom Keegan from the University of the West of Scotland and our new Vice-President is William Henderson from Glasgow Caledonian University. Tom is replacing Holly Patrick, from Edinburgh Napier University. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Holly for her service and wish her the best for the coming year.
You may have noticed that staff at your local college are out on strike over pay. The Further Education Lecturers Association (FELA), part of EIS, have taken six days of action over pay. You can support your colleagues in Further Education by retweeting and sharing their social media content, and offering your solidarity to your nearest college.
Find out more about their dispute and find out how you can support these colleagues here.
The EIS-ULA Executive Committee has sent solidarity greetings to our EIS-FELA counterparts and wish them success in this dispute. It’s time all lecturers in Further Education and in Higher Education were paid fairly for their work!
If you need any assistance with a problem at work, or you have information you think we need to know about what is happening at your place of work, please get in contact with your local branch or you can email me directly at email@example.com.
National Officer for Higher Education