Russell Group and 1994 Group universities disappointed as UCU moves towards industrial action

16 March 2011

Responding to the formal notification of industrial action by the UCU, the Director General of The Russell Group, Dr Wendy Piatt, said:

“Members of The Russell Group and 1994 Group have issued a joint statement. Universities are naturally concerned about the prospect of disruption to students resulting from industrial action on pensions, pay and job security. Higher education is facing enormous financial challenges, but we will continue to strive to deliver the high quality education provision expected and to protect jobs wherever possible.

“Russell Group Universities are committed to working closely with our staff and with all the campus trade unions. We are particularly disappointed that UCU is moving towards industrial action.

“Following national pay negotiations, a 0.4% pay settlement was the maximum affordable across the sector. Other Unions taking part in national pay bargaining have accepted the offer of 0.4%; only UCU has balloted members on industrial action.

“Pressures on USS have arisen from issues prior to the volatile investment market, including increasing life expectancy and pay increases in HE over the last decade.  But in comparison with other pension schemes, the modified changes are moderate, and are exceptional in still offering a continued final salary scheme to current members.  It is essential that the USS remains sustainable, attractive and affordable for all employers and members, current and future.”

Professor Michael Arthur, Chair of the Russell Group, said:

“Our Universities are committed to providing a first class education for students. In a difficult economic climate, UCU expectations of pensions, pay and job security are beyond what any responsible employer could be expected to deliver. We will continue to work closely with staff and unions to ensure that we provide competitive but sustainable pay and conditions for our highly-valued staff. Protracted industrial action has the potential to be damaging to our institutions and to the learning experience we offer and we will act to minimise any disruption to our students.”

The joint statement in full

Position statement on industrial disputes and industrial action

Members of The Russell Group of Universities and the 1994 Group have agreed the following principles which will govern the approach we take to industrial disputes with the trade unions.

  • The experience of our students will be paramount and our approach will reflect our commitment to ensure that students receive an outstanding education.•Our approach will be consistent with the objective of maintaining our position as world-class research-led institutions.  
  • We support and promote excellence in teaching and research and in the performance of all our staff in the development of our students.
  • In order to compete on the world stage we will operate professional employment policies and practices including competitive, fair and sustainable pay and reward systems.
  • We aim to work constructively with the trade unions to recognise and reward excellence. We will strive to avoid disputes and pursue a positive employee relations agenda.
  • In the current disputes with UCU we support the proposed changes to USS to ensure that the scheme remains viable in the future. We also support the approach taken by UCEA in the current round of pay negotiations.
  • If industrial action is taken, we will respond appropriately on the basis of the principles outlined above.  Partial performance of any kind cannot be accepted. This applies equally to all staff, whether they are part of the academic or support communities. 
  • Strike action, or action short of a strike, constitutes a breach of contract and will lead to pay being withheld, taking into account the impact on the university’s performance and its commitment to its students. This is in accordance with both the legal framework and common employment practice.