4 Fights Media Crib Sheet

30 Jan 2023 | 0 comments

This is a useful reminder of the key points of the dispute – particularly useful when talking to trhe press but also worth reading through for all those other conversations:

What is happening?

  • UCU members at 145 institutions have voted to take industrial action over pay and working conditions

What is the dispute about / why are we striking?


  • Joint union claim was for inflation + 2% or 12% whichever is highest
  • Employer’s final offer of 3% was rejected nationally by the joint unions
  • Inflation is currently running at around 12% so a 3% pay award would be sigificantly below inflation
  • Staff have already had an effective 28.2% cut in pay since 2009

Meanwhile employers have failed to take effective action to tackle issues of excessive workload, rising casualization and persistent inequality in pay.


  • Workload is a significant issue across the sector.
  • Staff regularly working well in excess of their contractual hours
  • UCU workload survey 2021 shows:
    • academic staff working on average of 51.3 hrs a week.
    • Prof services working 44.4 hrs
    • 33% of staff said workload unmanageable
  • Research by charity Education Support shows significant impact on health of members


Equality pay gaps:

  • There are persistent inequality in pay across the sector and equality pay gaps are not falling at any meaningful rate. Current rates
    • Ethnicity 17%
    • Disability 9%
    • Gender 16%
    • Take 22 years at current rates to close the gap



  • Casualisation increasing
    • 33% of all academic staff now on ft contracts
    • Rise in worker contracts
    • Significant impact on members
      • 42% struggle to pay bills
      • 71% say mental health affected
      • 43% say impact physical wellbeing


These are all national issues affecting staff at all Universities, so require national solutions.


Is this affordable?

Yes, the claim is affordable

  • Total cost of claim is less than £1 Billion nationally
  • HE sector income was £42.4 billion in 2019/20
  • Surplus of £3.4billion
  • Sector’s capital expenditure £4.2Billion
  • Proportion of expenditure spent across the sector on pay has dropped from 54.6% in 2015/16 to – 51.6% in 19/20


Institution specific financial info for 2020/21 can be found here: UCU – HE institution data

Includes info on:

  • Income
  • Surplus
  • Investments
  • VC remuneration


UCU took industrial action on the same issues last year, what is different this time?

  • Aggregated ballot so members at all institutions will be on strike.
  • Inflation is running at over 10% which makes the need for a fair deal more urgent


Impact on students?

  • Successful industrial action will ultimately cause disruption to students
  • Our members are education professionals and do not take the decision to take industrial action lightly
  • Fighting for the future of the profession
  • Issues that we are fighting – low pay, inequality, casualization and excessive workload – impact most significantly on early years staff and make it less attractive to new staff
  • University management has had ample warning that it would face industrial action unless it met our demands.
  • Instead they have imposed a sub-inflationary pay award and failed to act on the issues that are impacting staff


  • Students understand that staff working conditions are their learning conditions
  • High staff turnover and overworked staff impact on the education that students receive
  • Students know that the staff work hard to support them and must be paid fairly
  • Because of this students are generally supportive of the action
  • Our student’s union or supports the strike.

What do employers need to do to resolve the dispute?

  • This is a national dispute and will need a national solution
  • Employers should be putting pressure on their representative body – UCEA – to negotiate a fair pay award and national frameworks to address the issues of workload, casualisation and inequality in pay.
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