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

23 April 2009

Responding to the call for a ballot on industrial action by the University and College Union (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. All of our universities are deeply worried at the prospect of disruption of student examinations this summer in pursuit of an 8% pay rise. Every effort is being made to retain staff of the highest calibre but universities continue to be subject to some extremely difficult economic conditions with income streams under threat, costs increasing and international competition escalating. An 8% pay rise would undermine all our efforts to minimise job losses and severely hamper our chances of surviving this adverse economic climate. The experience of our students and welfare of our staff remains of paramount importance to us as world-class institutions; and now – more than ever – we need to work together to reduce costs to ensure we can weather the storm.”

Professor Malcolm Grant, Chair of the Russell Group, said:

“Russell Group universities are committed to working closely with our staff and with all the campus trade unions. After considerable effort to agree the format and timetable for national pay bargaining through Acas, we are particularly disappointed that UCU has called for a ballot during this process.  We urge the UCU to join the other campus unions working closely with employers to protect members’ jobs and the interests of students through the national negotiating machinery. Employers do not recognise the option of ‘action short of a strike’ on the UCU ballot; any partial performance undermines our ability to operate effectively and provide a first class learning experience for our students.

“Our universities face extraordinarily difficult times and an 8% pay claim would be extremely damaging. We will do everything we can to protect our students from harm and maintain the stability of our institutions through a time of serious retrenchment.”

Executive Director of the 1994 Group, Paul Marshall, said:

“Our universities are committed to providing a first class education for their students. In a difficult economic climate, the UCU’s 8% pay claim is 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 pay and conditions for our highly-valued staff. Industrial action will 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 is outlined below:

Following consultation, members of The Russell Group of Universities and the 1994 Group have agreed the following principles which will govern the approach we take to negotiations 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 
  • In order to compete on the world stage we will operate professional employment policies and practices and this includes modern,  competitive and fair pay and reward systems 
  • We aspire to working closely with the trade unions to recognise and reward excellence 
  • We support and promote excellence in teaching and research and in the performance of all our staff in the development of our students 
  • As employers we are supporting the current UCEA collective approach to pay bargaining but will keep this under review
  • We will work hard to avoid disputes and pursue a constructive employee relations agenda
  • 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 
  • Partial performance will lead to pay being withheld, taking into account the impact on the university’s performance and/or commitment to its students. This is not only in accordance with the legal framework but reflects common employment practice.