Universities across Scotland could see “disruptive action” as staff are being balloted on whether to strike in a dispute over pay.
The disagreement is part of a national Higher Education pay dispute, with Unite claiming the vast majority of its members have had an award of 5-6% given to them – which they say is a below-inflation pay increase.
Staff from Aberdeen, Heriot Watt, Glasgow, Strathclyde, Glasgow Caledonian, Glasgow School of Art, Dundee, Abertay, Edinburgh and Edinburgh Napier University will be asked if they are willing to take industrial action.
The ballot will run from July 17 until August 21.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The UCEA (University and Colleges Employers Association) has consistently failed to negotiate an improvement on the offer and this protracted dispute is the outcome of their inertia in reaching a settlement.
“This is impacting not only workers, but the tens of thousands of students that have been left in the lurch waiting for exam results.
“University workers went above and beyond during Covid-19 and this is how they are repaid. Unite will stand 100% behind our members for as long as it takes to reach a fair settlement.”
If the ballot is successful, there could be co-ordinated strikes when students return to the institutions after the summer break.
Unite regional officer Alison Maclean said: “This latest imposition is a further slap in the face for our members across Scotland’s universities when UCEA can clearly afford to pay more.
“Other unions in the sector are also planning action, so the employers need to take seriously the very real possibility of co-ordinated strikes taking place at the start of semester one in Scotland.
“The fault for this lies entirely at UCEA’s door. Unite calls on UCEA to get back to the negotiating table, our members and all university students deserve so much more”.
In response to Unite’s ballot for IA, Raj Jethwa, UCEA’s Chief Executive said: “It is disappointing that Unite members in 10 HEIs in Scotland have been asked to vote for industrial action over the 2023-24 pay uplift put in place five months ago.
“The Joint Trade Unions Side has been invited to exploratory talks with UCU for this Friday, July 14. This is a potential opportunity to find a way to resolve the long running current dispute and bring an end to the UCU’s Marking and Assessment Boycott. UCEA also welcomes the willingness of the unions to discuss UCEA’s proposal for an independent review of sector affordability.
“Recognising the current cost of living pressures facing staff, UCEA, representing 144 participating employers across the UK, agreed with Unite and the other four* trade unions to bring forward the 2023-24 pay talks.
“This resulted in a final pay award of between 8% and 5% from August 2023 with almost half of this paid from February, some six months in advance of the usual pay uplift date. Despite the financial pressures facing the sector, this pay award is comparable to settlements in the wider economy.
“Many of those members of staff also receive an increment pay rise of 2-3% as they move up the pay spine. The HE sector across the UK is experiencing frozen funding levels and increased costs. This included a £20m cut to Scottish HEIs for the 2023-24 academic year which was announced in May 2023.
“UCEA is fully committed to working with the trade unions on the implementation of the terms of reference to positively reset industrial relations in our sector and negotiated terms of reference for talks on pay related issues at Acas in the spring.
“These offer an opportunity to address some important issues, building on the extensive good practice which already exists in the sector.”