Why I am on strike today

If Stirling staff or students email me today, this is the out-of-office message they will receive, explaining why I am striking today.
Thank you for your email.

I am on strike today as called for by UCU and two other unions, and am therefore not responding to emails.

I do not take this action lightly, and offer an explanation of why I am striking below.

I will endeavour to respond to all enquiries as soon as possible.

Note that I will not be paid today, but our union executive has urged senior management to use any deductions of pay from strike day for student hardship funds (specifically suggesting the Discretionary & Childcare Fund).

Stirling Student Union, in a vote on 29.10., voted overwhelmingly in support of the academics’ strike.

Unite, UNISON and UCU are calling for industrial action in support of a pay claim. Note that this explanation deals solely with the academics’ position, but a similar situation exists for staff represented by the other unions. The strike is seeking to rebalance normal academics’ pay in light of the strikingly healthy financial position that universities are in. The union explains this for the UK as a whole here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=6759.

In summary: since 2009 normal academics’ pay has fallen by around 13% in real terms. This is not because the employers cannot afford to pay more, it is because they choose not to. The sector as a whole (www.hesa.ac.uk) has over £1 billion in operating surpluses. According to HESA, in 2011/12, universities committed only 55.5% of their expenditure to staff, compared with 58% in 2001/2. Income from students continues to be robust: admissions are up by 7% on last year and level with the record year of 2011/12. What is happening? Many institutions have been building up cash reserves over recent years and paying their senior staff exorbitant amounts, and they are doing so at the expense of normal academics. Attacking staff in this way seriously undermines the investment in student teaching and academic research.

Specifically in the Stirling context, normal academics’ pay is being continually squeezed, whilst the university records large surpluses and senior management pay rockets:
– in 2011 the university recorded a £5,292,000 surplus (5.2% of income), staff costs of £57,650,000
– in 2012 the university recorded a £3,519,000 surplus (3.6% of income), staff costs of £57,660,000
Staff receiving high salaries have increased dramatically:
– £70,000 – £79,999 2011: 16 2012: 17
– £80,000 – £89,999 2011: 13 2012: 16
– £90,000 – £99,999 2011: 5 2012: 12
– £100,000 – £109,999 2011: 2 2012: 2
– £140,000 – £149,999 2011: 1 2012: 0
– £190,000 – £199,999 2011: 1 2012: 1
Total number of high earners 2011: 38 2012: 48
In 2011 and 2012, the Principal, Gerry McCormac, received a total of £224,000 (salary/benefits: £193,000, pension: £31,000).
(All this information is from the University’s Financial Statement: http://www.stir.ac.uk/about/publications/)

In contrast, academic pay for Lecturers, Senior Lecturers and Readers (pay for Professors is not public) has decreased in real terms by 13% since 2009. Details of rates of Stirling’s pay are available here: http://www.personnel.stir.ac.uk/salary-payroll/salary-scale.php – Lecturers start on Grade 7, and gradually move up the scale, usually year by year (I am on Grade 8, for example). Increases have been paltry: in August 2009, someone on point 37 (bottom of Grade 8) received £36,715 and four years later received £37,382, an increase of just under 1.82%, when average inflation month by month was about 3.45% (http://www.rateinflation.com/inflation-rate/uk-historical-inflation-rate?start-year=2009&end-year=2012) – so that is a clear pay cut in real terms. As I have shown above, the university can easily afford to pay more (and senior management are clearly doing that for themselves), but in common with other UK universities, Stirling is choosing not to do so for normal academics. National negotiations between the union and the universities have ground to a halt over the universities’ intransigence.

In order to further this pay claim we therefore, regrettably, need to engage in industrial action. I hope that you will understand why I am doing this, and whether you are a colleague or a student, I and my union colleagues would appreciate your support. I love working with my colleagues and my students, and I regret that the universities are forcing the issue to this extent.

If you are a member of academic staff who wishes to join the union and support the industrial action, click here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=2283.


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