Union officials have pledged to go ahead with plans to ballot for strike action over university job losses, despite a 0.3% pay rise offer by university employers.
University of York lecturers look set to join the nationwide industrial action, which will disrupt summer examination timetables if it goes ahead.
University and College Employers Association (Ucea) see their 0.3% rise offer as “realistic, responsible and credible”, despite union officials instead calling for an 8% pay rise.
The University and College Union (UCU), said it would still ballot for strike action because of the threat of job cuts, which they feel may affect the quality of students’ education and damage the sector.
Dan Ashbury, UCU Head of Press, said: “The 0.3% offer was, unsurprisingly, rejected by all the campus unions as derisory. What action will be taken and whether or not there will be the need for any action won’t be known until we have the result in. Furthermore, if the employers agree to a national agreement for the protection of jobs, then hopefully there won’t be any need for action.”
Ashbury’s statement came after a UCU spokesman said last week that there is “nothing to prevent Ucea negotiating a national agreement to prevent job losses. In fact in these exceptional financial circumstances we think it is absolutely essential. They have failed to understand, or deal with, the full scale of the jobs crisis in the sector and left us with no choice but to ballot our members for industrial action.”
Jane Grenville, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Students, said: “Pay negotiations are conducted at a national level between the Universities and Colleges Employers Association and trade unions representing staff working in higher education. The University is monitoring the negotiations closely and is urging all those involved to do everything they can to resolve the current dispute without industrial action. Our priority is to ensure that the interests of students are safeguarded.”
Diana Warwick, Universities UK (UUK) chief executive, has said, however, that redundancy would be up to each university and could not be negotiated nationally.
She added: “Universities do not want to lose talented individuals – the contribution to the UK economy by higher education will be critical to our way out of the recession – but this is equally why we must ensure our universities are sustainable.”
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “We know the damage that will be done if urgent action is not taken to stop cuts across the country. It is now just the employers that seem unable to grasp the severity of the situation. They need to stop making excuses and start making a real effort to respond to staff and students.”
The ballot papers were sent out last week and the ballot will close on Friday 22 May. Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) are also striking on 24 April over a separate pay claim.