Dear Member,

You are likely to have seen the announcement on the University’s website: https://forstaff.leeds.ac.uk/news/article/7431/pay_2021-22_final_offer_presented

It is unfortunate that this has become an annual ritual: the University putting out a statement like this, and UNISON needing to respond to some of the more challenging statements contained within.

  • The University quotes the rate of inflation from March as the ‘current’ rate; the real current rate of inflation in the UK, is 2.5% CPI (or 3.9% if we use the more realistic RPI). So, that is once again, for the twelfth successive year an actual pay cut against the cost of living, for all but those colleagues on the very lowest rates of pay.
  • The University twice mentions that all University of Leeds staff are on “at least the Voluntary Living Wage” as if this is an achievement: an institution such as the University, which makes great play of its importance within the community, should, in UNISON’s view be paying the Real Living Wage, as a minimum, as indeed should the whole sector.
  • The following section from the statement rehashes one hoary old chestnut after another: “Annual pay increases for a large proportion of our colleagues also includes service increments, promotion and other contribution-related pay increases (additional scale increments, discretionary increments and one-off payments). Based on the final offer, many colleagues will receive at least a 4.5% uplift during the coming year, when taking into account service increments, which are paid at the appropriate service date.” (the University’s emphasis)
    • As we are forced to explain year after year, “service increments”, “promotions” and other “contribution related payments” play no part in the national pay negotiations. “Service increments” – are a reward for your experience and loyalty to the institution (and as increasing numbers of colleagues are stuck at the top of their pay spine, every year, so every year, this argument applies to fewer and fewer staff); “promotions”, as we all know, are not easily come by, and have to be applied for.

It is also interesting to note the paragraphs on “Workload Management”. UNISON fully supports the notion that workloads should be reasonable and managed, noting that the failure to do so can have a profound impact on the health / mental health of individuals and teams within the workplace. Unfortunately, for the staff UNISON mainly represent, such control is not within their gift, and sadly, we are aware of colleagues working many “hidden hours”, hours they don’t claim for or don’t feel able to make their manager aware of, “just to get the job done”: representations to managers (who are often overworked and under pressure themselves) are often either not believed or not acted upon. At this point staff usually do one of three things: fall ill – mental health / stress / anxiety is the single biggest cause of ill-health amongst our members; they simply quit, sometimes with no other job to go to, because they feel that is preferable; or they come to UNISON for help. This last option is the one we recommend if you find yourself in this situation. At its core, this is a simple question of demand versus resource: the answer either is, ask staff to do less work or employ more people.

It is of course, no coincidence that the University post this announcement at a time when all unions on campus and across the country are consulting members on the recent “pay offer”. UNISON is currently balloting members over last year’s (2020) insulting 0% “offer”: we are reminding you to vote, and recommending that you vote to strike. If you have voted please let us know by dropping a line to unison@leeds.ac.uk

Your views on this year’s (2021) “pay offer” have already been canvassed in an earlier on-line poll.

Your pay has fallen roughly 20% against inflation in the last 10 years. You are worth so much more than this.

In Solidarity

Angela Blackburn
Branch Secretary, UNISON

Nick Allen
Branch Chair, UNISON