Helium filled balloons supplied by UCU and bacon filled rolls supplied by Unison helped make the joint picket by university unions UCU, EIS, Unison and Unite on 6th February the most successful yet in the series of actions in favour of Fair Pay at Glasgow Caledonian.
In some ways this was the best organised of the actions so far, with posters informing the students of impending action having been put up on previous days, and a specially prepared leaflet featuring an appeal from each union given out to students on the day.
United for Fair Pay
Determined to win our action
Union reps indicated more reports of alterations to and cancellations of classes than had happened at previous actions.
Even the worst of the weather stayed off, although spectacularly, mid way through the picket, the wind put an end to the gazebo which had played such a helpful role in the previous disputes!
Pickets were out on all of the main entrances to the university with several delivery vans turning away after reading our leaflet, and many passing cars honking their approval of the action.
Applause for a particularly witty point
At a brief rally at 10.45 chaired by joint Union Convenor and EIS rep Nick McKerrell, Sinead Wylie brought the greetings and support of the Students Association, followed by Unison rep Davena Rankin and UCU rep Douglas Chalmers who spoke on behalf of their unions. Nick McKerrell closed the rally, pointing out that this had been a great example of the type of joint activity that the four unions at Glasgow Caledonian continued to do together very well.
Following the rally, 100 of the helium balloons were released on a count of three to cheering before we dispersed, having shown once again the depth of feeling amongst staff that GCU should pressurise UCEA to come back to the negotiating table.
Sinead from the students association nearly carried away
PS the joint unions have already been offered another 3 gazebos to take the place of the one that lost its battle with the Glasgow weather.
Tuesday 28th January saw Unison member Eddie McKean donating part of his lunch time to give striking UCU members and their supporters at GCU the opportunity to be the audience for some of his latest stand up routines – normally seen at comedy fairs as part of the ‘Bright Club’ of academic stand ups.
Hosted at the Students Association, the routine was part of the latest two hours of industrial action conducted by UCU in they campaign for fair pay on campus, following some early morning leafleting to alert students of why some of their classes would be disrupted.
During the 2 hour period leaflets were distributed to students in the Student Association explaining the background of the strike, thanking them for their support in the current campaign.
The Executive Committee of the GCU Students association today issued a statement in support of the continuing action by lecturers for Fair Pay.
In a statement on their blog they said:
“The Students’ Association Executive Committee (Full time officers) believe fair pay is crucial in improving the student experience by ensuring the University attracts excellent staff who are happy and motivated in their roles; providing them with good working conditions is vital for maintaining a healthy workforce.
This has a direct impact on students as staff who are under-appreciated and over-worked are less likely to function well and more likely to fall victim to stress or other illnesses. Both of these consequences are more likely to have a disruptive and detrimental impact on student learning than an isolated day of strike action.
The Executive Committee have taken the following position:
‘The Executive Committee supports the industrial action by campus trade unions, on the condition that they engage with students and commit to examining alternative forms of industrial action that focus more on disrupting the institution and not students [as NUS Scotland are doing nationally], and that the Executive Committee seek the views of the wider student body at the next meeting of Student Voice to determine the position of GCU Students’ Association in terms of any future industrial action [i.e., that takes place after Student Voice]’”.
Said Douglas Chalmers, President of the UCU@GCU: “We are very grateful for the continuing support of the students, in a difficult time, and we hope that with enough pressure from staff and students alike throughout the country, we can come to a sensible and quick conclusion to this action – on the basis of a fair pay settlement”
The students’ full statement can be found on their blog here
Meanwhile, staff are preparing for an additional extended break in the Students Bistro, today from 2pm till 4pm during part of which local unison member Eddie McKean will donate his lunch break to doing a session of standup comedy for staff and students…. watch this space.
Following the failure of the university employers association to offer a decent pay increase, the UCU throughout the UK will be holding a series of 2-hour long strikes – in the shape of an extended coffee/tea break – in the next three weeks.
The dates and times of the strikes will be Thursday 23rd January from 11am – 1pm; Tuesday 28th January 2pm – 4pm and Monday 10th February 9am – 11am
We are inviting all UCU members to enjoy a coffee/tea break at these times in the Student Bistro in the Student Association, where we will have the chance, amongst other things, to chat to local students regarding why we feel there is no option but to continue our action.
There is a Q&A session for all staff regarding the continuing action and its implications on Tuesday 21st January at 12.30 in M142 to which all members are invited.
Remember: Tuesday 21st Jan 12.30 M142 – Q&A on industrial action
Thursday 23rd – Strike coffee/ tea break in Student Association Bistro 11 – 1pm
Unite the Union, one of the unions representing staff at Glasgow Caledonian today slammed what they called ‘Elite University Bosses’ at the Russell Group of Universities – which in Scotland includes Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and St Andrews universities. Glasgow Caledonian University is not a member of this group – being a member, instead of the Alliance group of universities.
Unite condemned Vice chancellors at the elite Russell Group of universities for ‘rank hypocrisy’ for pocketing big pay rises, while trying to enforce a one per cent pay rise on staff.
Unite was commenting as a Times Higher Education (THE) survey of 19 of the group’s 24 members revealed that the average vice chancellor salary in the group increased by just over £22,000 to nearly £293,000 in 2012-13.
Chair of the Unite national education committee Haydn Morris said: “This smacks of rank hypocrisy, given that university staff have endured a six-year pay drought which has seen a 13 per cent cut in pay in real terms since 2008.
“On the day that the cost of living crisis has again been highlighted by the leap in rail fares, the university bosses are lining their own substantial pockets, while those staff that keep Britain in the top ten world university league table struggle to make ends meet.
“The ‘them and us’ situation is made worse as the cumulative operating surplus in the higher education sector is now over £1 billion. Cash rich universities could well afford to be more generous than the one per cent offer currently on the table.”
The university trade unions took two days of strike action last year in pursuit of a better pay deal and it is likely that more industrial action will be on the cards in 2014.
According to the THE, once pension payments are taken into consideration, the Russell Group vice chancellors received an average of £318,500 last year – up from £302,500 in 2011-12 which means an average salary rise of 8.1 per cent and a 5.2 per cent rise in overall benefits.
Unite’s university membership embraces science technicians, administrators and facilities management staff and has about 20,000 members in higher education.
Although GCU is not a member of the Russell Group, Dr Nick McKerrall, on behalf of the Combined Unions of the GCU recently drew attention to the disproportionate situation of excessive pay for senior management which is also the case in non Russell Group universities.
Following the misleading announcement by HR that current pay negotiations are ‘concluded’ the Combined Unions at Glasgow Caledonian issued the following statement to members today:
You will have seen the email from the head of HR regarding the ongoing industrial dispute which four trade unions (EIS, UCU, UNISON and UNITE) and the decision of management at GCU to impose 1%.
This gives a misleading picture of the situation by stating “the 2013-14 pay round is concluded”. This is NOT the case – even UCEA (the employers organisation) have stated this week “The UCEA Board is naturally disappointed that we have not been able to secure a New JNCHES settlement or conclusion in 2013-14” (Letter of 18th December 2013)
GCU along with many other HE institutions have decided to impose the meagre 1% rather than negotiate with the trade unions over fair pay in HE. Our pay has faced a 13% cut over the last 5 years whereas University management have had a jet set lifestyle with inflation busting increases to their already hefty salaries.
At our own institution the recently published accounts show that our Principal’s salary increased from £239,000 to £264,000 (page 24) and the number of staff employed by GCU earning over £70,000 grew from 44-52 (p25) – In 2005 only 13 people earned over £70,000 at GCU.
You can see details in the annual financial report here.
Also, comparable institutions to GCU like University of the West of Scotland and Robert Gordon’s have given a one-off bonus alongside the imposition of 1% – unfortunately our employers have not shared any Christmas cheer with us.
So our dispute goes on after two successful strike days in 2013 which garnered support from our own Students’ Association at GCU. It has been a long hard working year and we all deserve a break but we also deserve fair pay and engaging with this dispute will ensure we get it.
Have a relaxing break and a successful 2014!
Dr Nick McKerrell Convenor of Glasgow Caledonian Combined Union Committee.
This dispute certainly isn’t concluded yet, in anyone’s terms
In an extremely surprising e-mail today university management at Glasgow Caledonian seem to have accepted the suggestion of the university employers representatives UCEA that the pay round has been ‘concluded’ and following this have decided to impose the sub inflation ‘rise’ of 1 percent on staff salaries.
An email to all GCU staff reads that: “The university employers’ representative, UCEA (University and College Employers Association), negotiate the national pay settlement with the staff unions on behalf of employers. UCEA have now advised universities that the 2013-14 pay round is concluded and that participating institutions should implement the 1 % pay award.”
Even a brief on-line search (which we have provided above for the benefit of HR) would indicate that the use of the word ‘conclude’ is not merited here.
Very recently the Principal of UWS who authorised a one-off Christmas bonus to staff (as did the Principal of Robert Gordon university) approached the same issue by saying:
“I have, ….. asked that the University proceed with payment of the 1% uplift offered through those negotiations in December’s salaries, inclusive of back pay. This step should not be seen as undermining the national approach but as an action which seeks to balance the University’s commitment to the joint negotiating arrangements with a genuine concern for all staff You will appreciate that in putting these measures in place the University is seeking to do all that it can to acknowledge the dedication of colleagues and your evident commitment to the future development of the University.”
The staff unions at Glasgow Caledonian together with the Students Association believe that university staff continue to have a valid case. Industrial action is still continuing and will increase in the coming months of the New Year.