UCU decides against industrial action over pay

University lecturers will not join industrial action later this month over a 1 per cent pay offer after members voted against a strike.

Officers for University and College Union announced today that they will not undertake industrial action after considering the results of a ballot on the national pay offer for 2012-13.

UCU members voted against strike action, with 55.7 per cent (10,757 votes) against a national walk-out and 44.3 per cent (8,556 votes) in favour.

However, 70.1 per cent of members (13,452) voted in favour of industrial action short of a strike - such as academics working only their contracted hours - while 29.9 per cent (5,751) were against any action.

Negotiators for the sector's five main unions - UCU, Unison, Unite, GMB and Scotland's largest teaching union EIS - had recommended that their members reject a final offer of 1 per cent after demanding an 7 per cent rise from employers this year.

But UCU leaders have decided against any type of industrial action, such as a participation in a joint national day of action on 23 October, in light of the ballot's results.

Michael MacNeil, head of higher education at UCU, said: "The national negotiators and union's officers met and gave careful consideration to the results and have decided not to call action.

"The recent action short of a strike (ASOS) over USS pensions was possible as it included plans for an escalation route to strike action to counter any aggressive move by an employer.

"Members have at this time voted not to take strike action and the risk associated with standalone ASOS is considered too high on this occasion.

"UCU branches will be updated next week about the decisions taken by the other unions with regards to their ballots, including advice on how branches can take appropriate demonstrative action in support of colleagues in other unions who may take action."

Fifty-four per cent of the EIS members who replied to its ballot have backed a strike, while 72 per cent supported action short of a strike - with officers announcing a strike on 23 October.

Unite members have also backed the strike this week, with 63.3 per cent supporting such action.

Mike Robinson, Unite national officer, said: "University bosses need to get their heads out of the sand and listen to the concerns of workers who are struggling to get by."

Members of Unison, which represents administrators, technicians and other support staff, narrowly voted in support of possible strike action last week, with 50.3 per cent in favour. However, the union's higher education officers have decided against a strike following the close result.

Unions have claimed the 8 per cent pay rise was required after three successive years of below-inflation pay rises - 0.5 per cent in 2009-10, 0.4 per cent in 2010-11 and a £150 flat increase in 2011-12 - and have suggested that higher university surpluses this year could support the pay rise.

Employers say pay restraint is needed given major uncertainty about student numbers and their distribution across the sector under the new funding regime.

Around 54,000 fewer students were set to start university this autumn in England compared with last year, according to preliminary figures provided by the Universities and Colleges Admissions' Service last month.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

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