Pay claim 20/21 – come to the meeting on Tuesday to have your say!

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After a delay to allow more clarity to develop about the impact of coronavirus on University finances, we will shortly be starting our annual pay negotiations with University senior management. The pay claim for this year has been drafted by the committee and will be presented to members on Tuesday the 3rd November for any amendments and a vote. 

If you are a member please come to the meeting to have your say on the motion! The meeting will take place on zoom and the link has been sent via email. Contact us on unisonbham@contacts.bham.ac.uk or on Facebook if you haven’t received the link.

We want to hear from anyone who thinks the motion could be changed or improved. Equally if you’d like to be involved in the negotiations drop us a line! It’s a great way to get involved in the work of the union. 

Pay claim (subject to amendment and approval by members)

UNISON, UNITE and GMB (“the support staff unions”) call on the University to use the annual pay rise for this year to both recognise the exceptional contribution from support staff during a very difficult year as well as to make progress in addressing the historic reductions in real-terms pay from the past 12 years.

While we recognise that these are uncertain times for all organisations, we call on the University to pay a rise which reflects its enviable financial position relative to the rest of the sector and its commitment to standing out as a leading employer in the local area.

Below we summarise the position of the support staff unions on this year’s pay rise, provide additional supporting information and also request specific data that will help ensure substantive and evidence-based negotiations around this year’s claim.

The claim

While the University and the support staff unions are committed to negotiating improvements to the University’s pay spine, all parties agreed that there was no opportunity this year under the circumstances to undertake the kind of thorough and detailed negotiation that this will undoubtedly involve. We also agreed that the pay talks should be moved later in the year so that the financial impact on the University of the pandemic would be clearer.

With this in mind, the support staff unions feel that the simplest approach to pay this year would be to pay an across the board percentage rise. This would avoid worsening pay compression and, if it is at a fair enough level, allow talks on the pay spine next year to proceed smoothly.

The support staff unions’ pay claim for this year is for a rise of 5% on all points. Furthermore, the joint unions feel the 1% of the pay bill normally spent on performance related pay should be shared amongst all staff, but that this should be clearly distinguished in any final settlement.

The final claim therefore is for a 5% rise to all points as a cost of living pay rise, plus 1% in lieu of performance-related pay this year.

Supporting evidence

The support staff unions feel the claim is supported by evidence of the undue strain on the finances of support staff, the increase in their workload both historically and in the near future and the University’s resilient financial position based on the currently available information. In particular we note that:

  • The rate of RPI inflation for 2019 was 2.6%, with continuing high rates of RPI inflation at the start of this year. While the rise for 2019/20 was as such above inflation, the real terms increase of 0.4% did little to make up for past real-terms pay cuts. While current inflation rates are lower, this actually gives an opportunity to address historic real-term pay decreases this year.
  • Both the proportion of the pay bill paid to support staff and the FTE headcount have decreased in recent years. All unions have received anecdotal feedback to support there being a consistent year on year increase in workload. In addition, workload is likely to increase greatly following the loss of hundreds of often experienced staff as part of the Voluntary Leavers Scheme. Workload does of course need to be properly assessed and controlled but a proper pay rise this year would go some way to reflecting how hard staff have worked over the past year.
  • While further financial information will be forthcoming as part of the pay talks, we note that:
    • The University exceeded their target for Home student recruitment this year.
    • The University was able to access the furlough scheme for a large proportion of this year as a way of saving on a considerable proportion of the staffing budget. Some indications are that the University will also be able to access the Jobs Support Scheme in the same way to recoup staffing costs.
    • While income generation in areas such as accommodation and catering have clearly been impacted by the pandemic these are much less significant to the University’s finances in comparison to fees (15% in the latest accounts) and as stated above the furlough scheme has allowed at least part of the losses in this area to be offset.
  • While the labour market is difficult at present, wage growth has been strong in the most recent published statistics with an estimated 4.3% increase in median monthly pay in September. One way of interpreting this is a recognition that many employers, particularly larger better off employers, are asking more of their existing staff and increasing pay accordingly rather than recruiting new staff.
  • While the University has indicated a willingness to do more for the lowest paid, we’d highlight that all support staff at the University remain below the average UK salary and that therefore all support staff at the University should receive a decent pay rise this year.

A 5% pay increase across all bands is an opportunity for the University to actively invest in staff and support their wellbeing. Colleagues have demonstrated a commitment to both their work and the wider University throughout lockdown, going above and beyond to create a positive virtual working environment. Support staff have adapted quickly to the challenges of working remotely, embracing the tools needed to connect virtually with colleagues and students during a crucial time in the academic year and recruitment cycle.  

On campus, support staff have shown flexibility and enthusiasm in this year’s delivery of a positive student experience and welcoming both new and returning students to the University. As workloads increase and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 continues we understand that the months ahead will continue to be challenging for all. A 5% pay increase across all bands is an opportunity to show an appreciation for the continued dedication of support staff and invest in those that take pride in being a part of the University.

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