Headlines: May 21st, 2009

Higher education unions have described a pay offer by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) “the worst in the public sector”, while the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union has opened their annual conference with an attack on the latest pay offer for the civil service.

Five unions representing higher education staff­ – EIS, GMB, UCU, UNISON and Unite – were responding to the UCEA increasing their pay offer from 0.3% to 0.4%. They are also unhappy about the progress of a proposal to avoid redundancies in the sector.

University and College Union general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘UCEA has managed the remarkable feat of making the worst pay offer in the entire public sector. 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.’

Meanwhile, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka claimed that his members were being treated as “second class citizens”. Addressing union members in Brighton, he said:

“The government’s refusal to honour the agreement reached last year and the pressure on employers not to offer more than 1.5% as a basic award is an insult to the low paid workers who deliver our frontline services.

“In almost all other occupational groups outcomes are better with 2.3% for teachers, 2.4% for the NHS and 2.6% for the police.”

Unions have already spoken out against the size of pay offers in local government and further education, while the government announced at the end of March that it was rejecting the advice of its Senior Salaries Review Body and awarding senior civil servants, top NHS managers and judges a 1.5% rise rather than the recommended 2.6%.