Charlie Jeffery is Vice Chancellor and President of the University of York. 

The UCU branch executive committee at the University of York.

UK universities have been stuck in a cycle of industrial conflict for over five years.

It has been debilitating for staff, compromising welfare and career opportunities, and damaging to a generation of students already deeply impacted by Covid-19.

And repeated conflict undermines the sector’s reputation at home and abroad. We at the University of York – the vice chancellor and the local branch executive of the University and College Union (UCU) – want to work together to break out of this cycle.

Breaking the impasse

But the national negotiations are now at an impasse. We need, as employers and trade unions, to get back to meaningful negotiations on pay and conditions. We’ve shown it can be done on pensions. That’s in part due to recent changes in economic circumstances. All are now agreed the latest valuation process of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) will be positive and enable benefits to be restored.

But, importantly, we’ve gone beyond that to begin to explore measures that would guard against future instability if economic circumstances change. And – together with the USS trustees – employers and unions are collectively pressing both the UK Government and the Pensions Regulator not to impose tighter, over-cautious regulation in future. That capacity to work together to think into the medium term is crucial.

Are there ways in which employers and unions can build a shared perspective on the future of pay and conditions in the sector?

Working for the future

We made some progress a few months ago on a set of long-standing issues which have vexed the sector, working up draft Terms of Reference for action on the national pay spine, minimising casual contracts, closing pay gaps and ensuring workloads are at – and stay at – reasonable levels.

There’s a balance to be struck here between employer concerns about university autonomy and the demands of trade unions that these matters must be subject to UK level frameworks. But we could still work in negotiations to strengthen these Terms of Reference, perhaps creating shared baselines that universities would be expected to meet to improve working conditions.

Recognising the issues

The bigger sticking point in the national negotiations is pay. To move ahead we need two things.

First, we need – as employers and unions – to jointly recognise that real wages, as across the wider public sector, have been gradually eroded since 2008 by repeated below inflation pay rises. With high inflation over the last two years, that erosion has been accelerated. Pay rises in 2022-23 and 2023-24 have lagged seriously behind inflation. Many staff now face real hardship.

Staff at York and elsewhere – who have always worked with great commitment, and in recent years through particularly difficult circumstances as a result of Covid – deserve more. The risk is that increasing numbers of staff feel they cannot develop good, sustainable and rewarding careers in the sector. We need to change this. As we look ahead to resuming negotiations, we need to find ways to begin to reverse the decline in real wages.

But second, we should also – as unions and employers – jointly recognise that the financial situation of the sector is at risk of becoming precarious. We are grappling with a broken funding system which systematically underfunds the true costs of both home undergraduate teaching and research and leaves us reliant on other unstable funding sources.

Combined with the effects of recent inflation, it has put a growing number of universities in a position where higher pay rises could bring further financial risk. Some universities – even with the below-inflation pay rises of the last two years – are now in a highly problematic financial position.

Onward to action

But if we can find sector-wide agreement on these two points – first, staff deserve more and the last two pay awards have not met the needs of staff and second, many employers feel they are not in a position to afford more – then, as we have seen around USS, we can turn to how we can fix the situation in future.

That will require us to think in new ways. One would be to set up a framework for shared understanding of sector finances, perhaps with independent leadership. This could enable employers and unions to build a clearer shared perspective on a sustainable approach to reversing the decline in real wages, which is vital for our sector’s future.

We should also look to approach pay beyond annual, short-term and reactive negotiations, and develop multi-staged or multi-year deals that would enable employers to plan ahead with greater certainty, which would support developing and implementing the frameworks mentioned above. This would likely involve putting guardrails around these pay deals through stabilisation mechanisms, analogous in outcome to those under consideration for USS, so we could manage changes in economic circumstances.

But above all, we at York jointly recognise that the current pay offer is not what staff deserve and have a vigorous, shared commitment to building and making a shared case to both government and opposition for fair and sustainable funding for the sector. We cannot achieve this effectively if we are engaged in constant industrial disputes. At the University of York we are clear that negotiations must restart to enable a different path to be found.

We think that many others among employers and the trade unions across the UK want this too. Let’s do it.

37 responses to “A shared perspective on pay and conditions

  1. Worth noting here that the Terms of Reference on workload, casualisation and equalities were rejected by 56% of members as inadequate (this is linked on David Kernohan’s piece). Interesting reference to strengthening the ToR – it lacked meaningful concrete commitments (“involuntary zero hours” being a case in point – far too vague and far too much space for exceptions). UCU nationally have called for 24 month minimum contracts – concrete commitments of this sort could provide a means to really add substance that would genuinely change the lives and working conditions of UCU members.

    1. Genuine question: why would my university allow me to take up a 9-month fellowship (with research buyout) if it would mean employing my replacement for 24 months?

      1. I’d be interested to hear the answer to this one – also why a University should cover 12 months of maternity leave with a 24-month contract.

        1. These are very old problems that large organisations have been able to handle for decades. In brief, large organisations handle fluctuations by pooling.
          If you are the first person in your institution’s history to get a 9-month fellowship (or to have a baby), then it is probably worth the institution going out of its way to support this.
          If there is a steady stream of people going on leave, a head of department can do their job as a manager by asking some people to take on more of one sort of work (e.g. teaching or admin) now with a promise of an equivalent release in the future. When the department builds up 24 months of accumulated work that needs to be covered, then they can hire someone on a 24-month contract.
          Academic contracts often involve someone upending their life to move from one city to another, or even once country to another. They deserve to have the security of at least a two-year contract.
          Personally, when I was a post-doc may years ago, the department that hired me had to pool the funds from several different grants to piece together an offer of a two-year position. They did that because they valued giving decent contracts. Our generation should do the same for the next.

          1. Thanks for the reply, which is helpful on ‘pooling’ (though only larger teaching units will have that sort of carrying capacity, which they’ll need to ‘hide’ from their own finance department).

            Piecing together a 2yr contract out of combined grant funds also sounds very enlightened, but I’m trying to imagine a scenario where e.g. 3 colleagues in my department all have significant buyout money to spend in the same 2yr window, which they then spend on a temp lecturer somehow capable of covering the modules of 3 people.

            This ‘London buses’ scenario sounds improbable even in a large department (i.e. dozens of people teaching roughly similar things), and pretty much impossible in smaller units. Would those of us in smaller departments just never get the chance of research buyout, for fear of exploiting someone with a less-than-24mo contract?

          2. I am unsure that the majority of organizations cover maternity leave in this “pooling” manner – typically this is covered by a fixed term contract covering the same amount of time as the maternity leave, surely? Even if one wants to acknowledge the difficulty of uprooting to a different city to take a year long maternity cover role up, I am unsure that paying someone for an extra 12 months on top could ever really be justified in terms of resources, if there was not the need to cover that role for more than the 12 months (and what if it were cover for 9 or 6 months maternity?). It is nice in theory and I’m pleased you had a good experience in the past, but in terms of resources, having to budget for upwards of 80k to cover let’s say 50k of maternity leave seems like a clear recipe for permanent colleagues covering the parent’s work. Even if they had the vague carrot of future workload reduction I’m uncertain this would really be a better situation than we have now, where maternity cover is typically a contract covering the parent’s leave.

            Equally as someone else says, this idea of working towards a 24-month block is one where you’d end up with loads of different specialisms needing to be covered by one person which is surely not ideal either, along with colleagues being overburdened with only a promise of future reduction to cheer them.

            I’m sorry if this sounds like immediately shooting the ideas down – it’s just been very frustrating to see UCU develop their policy on casualisation into this 24 month concept which seems logistically almost impossible to put into practice for the demands of covering academic work of permanent colleagues on research or personal leave. You’d really need a shift in funding councils to only offer 2+ years of grant period, to facilitate this for research cover – and for maternity, having a baby would cost the employer not just the maternity pay and the cover, but another let’s say £25k, for work that wasn’t required.

        2. Universitys only typically pay 4.5 months of full pay then its satutory maternity pay which is less than £700 a month – My question would be why should they not cover maternity pay – and if you think they shouldnt- who do you sugguest should cover womens maternity pay?

          1. They absolutely should cover maternity pay. I’m talking here about cover for the work the person on mat leave is not doing, because they are on mat leave. UCU current policy is that this should be covered by someone on a minimum 24 month contract, which seems to me unjustifiable financially.

    2. A 24 month minimum contract for everyone would be extremely counterproductive, how would we ever employ anyone on any of the many 6-12 month Fellowship and research funding calls? What about interns? Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs)?

      I’m all for providing stability to researchers and staff, but a lot of the discussion has been ludicrously simplistic. Our GTAs are crying out for zero hours contracts, but they’ve become extremely difficult to arrange and the result is we’re struggling to recruit GTAs at all.

      1. UCU have never given anything *close* to a satisfactory answer on this, re their demand of 24 months minimum vs the work these posts are meant to cover which is almost never 24 months, and rarely over 12. Sure, it’d be nice to employ someone for longer, but the truth is a University would just insist on cover from within. It’s a recipe for far fewer opportunities for postdocs.

  2. What is needed is either additional grant funding or tuition fee increases on an ongoing basis to compensate for cost inflation, or some combination of these. It simply isn’t possible to give staff significant pay rises, or even relatively modest ones, without there being more income. Some HEIs are already in serious deficit, many are teetering just above this. And all other costs, notably TPS contributions, also increase each year so the available pot is getting smaller each year. Nobody wants strikes, nobody wants unhappy staff, but there’s a reality which doesn’t look as if it will be moving anytime soon. And we shouldn’t be punishing students at a critical time in their lives.

    1. Alex it’s curious that you think we shouldn’t punish students but we should increase tuition fees. We could save a lot of money by eliminating a large number of upper administrative roles in the university that really serve no purpose (example: do we really need deputy deans?), and cap institutional salaries at £100k. That’s before we get to the unnecessary property speculation that has been endemic at HEIs over the last while.

      1. Senior pay has to be competitive in the wider world, not just HE, and whilst there may be some roles which could be changed, capping salaries would be a drop in the ocean financially and wouldn’t then attract the same range of talent. Tuition fees don’t punish students, but do form part of what some graduates pay back. If there’s no more funding from either fees or grants, inevitably the HE sector will have to either diversify further (maybe into property letting) or reduce in size or range of offer, affecting staff at all levels. And there are many other costs which HEIs need to bear, most of which are unavoidable, most of which increase each year and all of which come from the same funding pot.

    2. I’d be interested to see if the proportion of wages relative to institutional income has changed over the past few years. My sense is that its decreased meaning other expenditures are being prioritised. That has to be part of any reality too. Staff are the university.

      1. This is easily checked, just look up your institution:

        So e.g. for York, ‘staff costs as % of total income’ is:

        2015/16: 55.6%
        2016/17: 55.2%
        2017/18: 55.1%
        2018/19: 75.3%
        2019/20: 51.4%
        2020/21: 59.5%
        2021/22: 74.7%

        The chart linked below shows staff costs relative to everything else — the one to worry about is interest, which barely registered in the 2014-22 window but which will spike this coming year:

  3. It is dispiriting to see people seemingly seriously suggesting that, say, losing 4-8 senior roles in a University could somehow make up for the *current* funding gap of a minimum 5% pay increase for all staff which has been imposed this year (the stats UCU use on income and expenditure are from 2022, so prior to this imposition) – let alone covering the pay rise UCU seem to think is feasible of another 10% on top of that (plus of course making all fixed term roles permanent, which is another thing they seem to think is feasible). The current dispute is at root a protest dispute, which is not really winnable in any sense, since the demands (on pay and contract length) are not in any way realistic, despite what UCU seem to think. This is why 44% of UCU members very sensibly backed the deal. There is simply *no way* Universities can afford an above-inflation-level pay increase (added to hundreds of new members of staff) without a pretty massive increase in tuition fee income, or a whacking great state subsidy, or make huge numbers of staff redundant. UCU rhetoric on ‘surplus’ and in particular ‘reserves’ is completely misleading on this, and has stoked the sense among members that what UCU are demanding is somehow affordable and could be solved by, say, removing a few managerial salaries and not renovating teaching spaces. The Gen Sec of UCU actually knows this, which is why *she endorsed the deals reached at ACAS*, only to have these rejected by members, who she’d previously egged on to reject the same pay deal.

    1. The problem with this line of argument is two-fold:
      1) You can have all the watertight cases you want that it’s not possible to pay someone a remotely competitive salary with sensible surrounding terms on workload, security, etc … but the best-case outcome is that they nod seriously, sympathise, and then throw your job advert/offer in the bin to do something similar for £10-20k more elsewhere. In my professional services department we have multiple critical roles we can’t fill because university pay scales have gone from “pretty decent” to “no chance mate” over the last 10-15 years and the people who couldn’t be bothered to move earlier eventually retired.
      2) Okay, so the argument is that the sector is essentially utterly broken – it can’t pay competitive salaries, it has to overwork what employees it does still have, and underpaying women and other pay inequalities are a requirement of doing business, as there’s just no funding available to do better. Are we planning to be honest about that with applicants for our “no refunds” courses at any point? What are these expensive senior managers being paid for if not to avoid this sort of thing?

      1. I think re ‘the sector is utterly broken’, the truth is that the model as imposed by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition is one that needs fees to actually rise in order to work, but part of the point of it was to try to bankrupt some institutions, especially post-92s. Not that I support this happening, or that I support students taking on the full burden of fees, because I don’t – I think, just realistically, 1/3 of total fees is probably about right, with the state funding the rest as they do post-16 education – but the truth is that under the Tory-LD model, raising them annually is the only way to do it (but then repayments havew to be interest free); not, as UCU would have it, cancelling new building work and renovation and cutting a few executive salaries (or their more ludicrous suggestion of ‘using reserves’ which means Oxbridge being forced to sell all its land and giving the cash to other Uni’s). And Labour are not going to change this much either. They’re not going to cap numbers, they’re not going to abolish fees; I don’t even think a Corbyn govt would have fully done this.

        The point about competitive salaries, esp in PS, is well made here. I don’t have an easy answer to that one, aside from a change to the funding model as above, but in the current dispute, UCU is not advocating for this, they’re just asking for shedloads of money and new positions from *funds that literally don’t exist*, and they’ve been consistently lying to their members about the ways this could happen.

        Point about pay gaps – Universities are all committed to working on these, and UCU have over the years consistently scorned and rejected any attempts Uni’s make on these issues, e.g. in the 2020 negotiations. It’s completely unclear what UCU actually want on that aside from an abstract desire for ‘meaningful action’ that is ‘time limited’ – something Uni’s are already doing. But of course the UCU NEC advocated rejecting the offer on that.

        Another of my, er, unpopular opinions is that workloads in HE – especially for permanent academic teaching staff – are *not* actually especially unmanageable, and I think it’s again ridiculous that a core UCU demand on this is *giving yet more money to staff*. There are naturally times of the year when, for instance, lecturers are teaching and when marking is also required, which can feel quite overwhelming, but a lot of the time this is both self-inflicted – by lecturers who refuse to reduce their own marking loads, for instance – and is also very time-sensitive, as there are other times of the year when lecturers are not even required to be in their offices, and their activities are for the most part not closely monitored either (the academics who are on Twitter openly admitting to undertaking leisure activities while on the clock has astonished me – they’d be at immediate risk of losing their jobs in most other industries). One of the genuine plus points for academic work is that in general it is *not* closely micromanaged, and any attempt in these disputes to ‘reduce workload’ will undoubtedly bring with it a much more closely-focused monitoring of exactly what staff are actually doing when undertaking their paid work. I’m not sure many staff would be willing to accept that tradeoff, but it will v likely happen.

        I am dismayed by this MAB in part because it is in support of a dispute which has so many facets to it that almost nobody committed to the dispute is going to be happy with a negotiated settlement – as was provided at ACAS, for instance, and which was immediately rubbished by most members of UCU NEC. The UCU has set itself up to be permanently in dispute with the 4 fights, and that’s entirely the fault of the total lack of realism from all its elected officials, from NEC to Gen Sec to Congress – it’s just not a serious union, but its actions are having devastatingly serious repercussions for members and students alike.

        1. As regards negotiated settlements … the vote against the current UCEA offer was only 56:44. So that’s the sort of level where a relatively small improvement in the offer could perhaps have tipped the balance – scrape together an extra 0.5% on pay, clean up some of the wording objections groups had to the ToR on the casualisation/workload/equality issues, get it over the line. Acceptance by 51:49 wouldn’t have been fun internally for UCU but that wouldn’t have been UCEA’s problem. But UCEA decided that they didn’t need to do that and could fight it out, so here we are.

          Equally, it got a 56% rejection in a vote with comparable member turnout to the formal industrial action ballots. That suggests that the elected officials are collectively also pretty representative of the wider membership, at least on this issue (i.e. both the members and officials are split but lean in favour of continuing the action)

          (As far as serious repercussions go; back to “the sector is broken” in the sense of having no crisis resilience at all. If UCEA’s “tiny minority” are able to cause such disruption, that’s also on management for not having proper capacity plans in place.)

    2. Propaganda on both sides, but this is the education version of the argument that the minimum wage can’t be raised because then all of those great small businesses couldn’t afford workers. If a small business can only exist by exploiting workers on low wages, then that’s a problem. Are we saying that it’s OK that universities are being run in such a way that salaries consistently fall below inflation and workers are increasingly badly off? This is (partly) about values and priorities, how we balance a desire for high-quality education with a willingness to exploit teachers. And YES, why are we not hearing more from universities about how government should step up and help with a “whacking great state subsidy” because education is a public good? The government has to set priorities too, and most recently, as someone else points out, that’s included £25bn that was wasted on fraudulent or inadequate COVID response measures.

      1. York and the other Russell Group institutions can probably afford a higher pay settlement. *But loads of others genuinely can’t.* UCU leadership know this but seem not to care. Already there are hundreds of redundancies in process at very established universities — and that’s before big cost increases this year (energy, etc) hit the books.

        I really wonder if the loud and proud MAB-bers at rich universities pause to think about the impact (i.e. potentially my job) of stretching post-92s way beyond sustainability. Solidarity indeed!

      2. I’m sorry, but the idea of university leaders pressuring government into giving us shedloads of extra money is just beyond delusional. That would have been fanciful 20 years ago; after 2010 it’s a total fantasy.

        Beyond the HE bubble, the UK government is currently boasting about stiffing the pay demands of doctors, teachers and nurses. If anyone think the British public are keen to pour extra billions into our pockets while nurses go hungry, I suggest they do some informal surveys at the local bus-stop, or better yet the A&E waiting room.

      3. “Are we saying that it’s OK that universities are being run in such a way that salaries consistently fall below inflation and workers are increasingly badly off?” – I don’t think we are, but the current dispute features, on the one hand, employers saying ‘we simply can’t afford this’, and a union saying ‘you can’ by using ridiculously misleading stats – inexplicably swallowed by a membership who are meant to be clever people – to suggest that what they’re asking for is easily-achieved. As someone above says, it might be true that a Uni like York can afford a further 8% pay rise – but many can’t, and in fact are sacking people *right now* – this is somewhat betraying the elite-uni focus of most UCU HE activity.

        This dispute might be in general ‘about values and priorities’, but I don’t think so many UCU members would have vote yes to industrial action if a win was literally contingent on their employers having the power to change this horrific Tory govt’s mind about University funding – when, as I’ve said on here, that govt’s aim since 2010 has been to try to force some uni’s to go bankrupt…

        All the more reason for UCU to have focused industrial action *on a single dispute* – even if pay? – rather than 4 disputes, one of which (the one on casual contracts, included it would seem to placate the GS’s voter base of PhD students and people on non-permanent contracts) involves basically impossible demands from UCU (e.g. as above, the stand-in of a funded 9 month research contract being a *checks notes* 24-month worker who’s basically permanent – a recipe for no research leave for anyone and no new jobs at all, even in a friendly economic landscape) that have, again, been sold as easily-achieved, not just by the union’s GS but by many elected reps of the union too.

        Where we are now is a union with a fairly hardline decision-making body being in dispute over 4 different issues, meaning that any agreement on one can be countered by less agreement on another, as in fact happened earlier this year where the lack of movement on casualisation caused the 56% to turn it down. Meaning actual resolutions are near-impossible; meaning endless IA with no reward (yes USS was more or less sorted but there has been genuinely zero movement on ‘4 fights’ since *2019*). It’s all well and good to say ‘the govt could pump money into HE’ but IA is about realism; and the UCU Rising dispute is simply not one with a realist solution.

        1. If that’s the GS’s voter base, she has no hope of keeping it next year. She dismayed a lot of casualised staff by endorsing the ToR which had nothing concrete for casualised staff and betrayed a naive understanding of the nature of casualisation by allowing herself to be tricked by the employers’ focus on zero hours contracts. She’s losing postgraduate researchers with her current plans to make the excellent PGRs as Staff campaign co-leads redundant. I suspect her voting base now is those who oppose strong action such as indefinite strikes and MAB and those who don’t know much about what’s going on in the union but recognise her face and name.

      4. Small businesses can also set their own prices for their product to cover some of the cost for responsible pay increases. HE is not allowed to do so except for international students and then get hammered in the press and by government for having too many international students.

  4. I’m really pleased to see this article! It seems so obvious written down, and yet to get traction with this kind of thinking has been a real struggle. I very much hope the step forward made at York can pave the way for other insitutions and their branches to acknowledge that this is the only solution to the problems of pay and funding. Well done to all at the University of York!

    1. Agreed! I look forward to seeing more unis make such eminently sensible (yet apparently brave in UCEA/the Russell Group) statements.

  5. Agree with Naysayer. We should expect propaganda from both sides of an industrial dispute, but I stopped supporting this strike when the UCU rhetoric on ‘surpluses’ became intolerably dishonest.

    There is robust public data on UK university finances – go here and sort by ‘surplus/deficit as % of total income’:

    (If UCU tweets are your main source of information you’re in for a surprise.)

    Very few UK universities have any cushion to speak of, and will be facing skyrocketing costs as debt comes up for refinancing. Deploying the ‘nuclear option’ in these conditions was insane – at the very, very most UCU will squeeze out an extra 0.5% on pay, while stress-testing national pay negotiations to the point of collapse. What then?

    1. Yes – and bear in mind that those are 21/22 figures where the rise in fuel prices was yet to hit, ditto the 5% pay rises (and concurrent pension pay rises too), let alone refinancing of debt as you say. There is absolutely no way that universities can pay v much more without cutting elsewhere. That’s what this statement from York is essentially saying anyway, isn’t it – the suggestion is to tie Universities into gradual pay rises over successive years, but this will bring with it attendant financial planning – and that isn’t going to be the kind of thing UCU members who are currently MABbing are going to like.

    2. Wouldn’t it be better to sort exclusion pension adjustment since it’s now been acknowledged that we were right all along on the pension cuts and that they will be reversed?

      Anyway, what I see is the majority of unis – which are not-for-profit institutions – making a profit. Not-for-profits should make a loss as often as a profit. We shouldn’t be hoodwinked by employer logic that we need big surpluses, nor should we uncritically accept what they choose to spend money on instead of us. We should pressure them with our industrial action for fair offers. That’s what we’re doing (some of us, anyway. If I’m reading Naysayer’s last line here correctly, they’re acting with the employers, not with us. I hope you’re not doing the same). If employers really can’t find the money for the payrises we’ve won for them, the onus is on them to collectively push for funding reform. We need to make that the easier option than just eroding our pay and exploiting us with poor conditions.

      1. First sentence should say: sort by surplus/deficit as % of total income excluding pension adjustment.

      2. Which do you think is more likely: a successful effort by university employers to “collectively push for funding reform”, or lots of universities going under?

        Because that is not only the easier option, it’s what the government explicitly desires (‘market exits’ that open the way to sexy new providers who will compete and innovate the survivors into shape).

        I would love to live in a Britain where it was remotely plausible to imagine such reform, I truly would. Labour have already ruled it out in the clearest possible terms, and let’s not forget they created quite a lot of the current system.

      3. Firstly re pensions – Universities aren’t all in USS and the employer contribution that post-92s are paying on the TPS is likely to be substantially increased in the very near future. That’s in addition to the standard increase to pension contributions from employers in USS and TPS when salaries go up, as they have by 5% minimum. This is going to have an impact on staff spend and thus balance sheets, no matter the resolution of the USS dispute – in fact it literally already has.

        But to move on – I’ve never supported a dispute being run as the 4 fights has. There is simply too much in dispute at once, meaning we’ll almost inevitably see negotiated settlements that will be deemed insufficient by too many on the Union side (as in fact has already happened in 2023 re casualisation where as you say this seems to have made the difference causing 56% to reject and in 2020 too), and also employers claiming there’s too much demanded of them at once, making it a dispute(s) that is very hard to resolve to a satisfactory conclusion, and paving the way for endless action (and really, again, this has been happening since 2019 on the 4F, where UCU has never agreed to anything negotiated, they turned down the most recent pay rise via some very ill-advised interventions from the GS). This is even clear from the way the above statement from York has been received by UCU members as some sort of milestone, when it *only focuses on pay*. I am less convinced that 51% support for a deal can be easily achieved when the voices people look to for guidance in the union – whether UCU Left, GS, or Commons – seem in general so opposed to a sensible resolution. I think the vote being 56-44 was a result primarily of strike fatigue. Staff are losing *so much* money over this range of disputes, and have been for 4+ years. It’s just not sensible IR.

        “Not-for-profits should make a loss as often as a profit” – I think this is a very irresponsible way to view the HE sector, especially given there is no clear sense that most Universities would *ever* end up in the black again if UCU’s demands are met. Also irresponsible is “If employers really can’t find the money for the payrises we’ve won for them, the onus is on them to collectively push for funding reform. We need to make that the easier option” – this feels incredibly unlikely to ever be the ‘easier option’ – and at the cost of many, many uni’s going bust. As McZorro says, the current Tory Govt, as well as the coalition before them, and even the neoliberal incarnation of Labour 97-2010 and who run the party now, were all quite keen on reducing the number of universities in the UK and I think they collectively still are. To think that the 4 fights dispute, with max 70,000 participants, is going to precipitate a comprehensive change in the funding and organisation of HE is, without again wanting to be too rude, pretty imaginative a conclusion to draw. It’s much more likely to precipitate mass redundancies, universities going bankrupt, and contracts shifting to insecurity across the board (i.e. previously permanent people being shifted to non-permanent rolling contracts justified via financial instability – as is already happening in pockets of the sector).

        A sensible IR strategy with one or at most two disputes running at once, with actually achievable aims, and claims about affordability that aren’t obvious lies, could have achieved something tangible for university staff. But the 4 fights wasn’t, and isn’t, that.

  6. £25bn in covid loans fraud that will NEVER be recovered because the Tories are terrified we’ll find out whose bank accounts the money actually hit. Michele Mone receiving £29million from flawed PPE Medpro, a company she lobbied ministers to use, and then the PPE was stored (at further cost) and disposed of because it wasn’t suitable. Pfffttt. Wake up folks. The money is there to afford to pay workers, but the political will isn’t. Yes the funding model may be broken, but the current day government has made a huge mess of everything it touches, unless you happen to be one of their pals, as they seem to do pretty well I’d say.

  7. I wonder how long before York follow Queen’s Belfast and do a ‘shared perspective’ that shafts the rest of the sector?

    1. It does feel like this is where we’re heading – and, I’m guessing, for the ‘independent review’ of the sector to decide that post-92s should be looked at differently.

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