How does Imperial’s 2023-24 pay offer really compare with the national?

How much is Imperial’s pay offer really worth compared to UCEA’s? Less than you might expect.

Imperial College management claim that their 2023-24 pay offer is significantly better than the national pay offer from the University and College’s Employer’s Association (UCEA) 2023-24 offer to the institutes involved in national pay bargaining. Here we refute this claim.  

There is little doubt that Imperial is better off financially than the average UK university, as past surpluses confirm. In fact, it would be a source of embarrassment if we lagged behind given our deserved reputation for attracting research funding and students, a good proportion paying overseas fees. So, it is fair to ask how much more is Imperial’s 2023-24 pay offer worth compared to the UCEA offer, which, necessarily has to be affordable not just to the average UK university, but to those struggling financially.

We have used College’s figures to make a direct comparison between the two offers, applying the terms of both offers to the same distribution of staff pay at Imperial. By adding together the costs from each quantile of 250 staff, grouped in salary order, we can compare the overall cost of the two offers.

First, it is important to understand what each offer amounts to: UCEA’s gives an early payment in February and then tops that up to 5% in August. Imperial has an early payment in May, and then tops it up to the larger of 5.5% or £2500 in August.  Hence UCEA’s offer gives three months of extra payments compared to Imperial’s. To take that into account in a fair manner, we calculate the total cost of either offer from February 2023 to August 2024, when the next pay settlement is due. We also apply the terms of both offers to all staff. All UCEA members we are aware of have already started paying the February element of the offer to all staff, even though UCU nationally are in dispute over this.

In fact, the details of each offer tend to play off against each other’s – UCEA gives a smaller early payment but in February, not May, and, while Imperial is offering 0.5% more, it also has a maximum of £5000 while UCEA members are applying 5% across the board. Taking all of these effects into account, Imperial’s offer will cost it just 0.24% more than UCEA’s up to August 2024: while the Imperial offer is worth more than UCEA’s it hardly reflects the ability of Imperial to pay its staff more.

Finally, some of you may have noticed that Imperial is claiming its offer is worth on average 7.1%. That is quite a remarkable number considering the cost of the offer, according to College, is significantly less than that. In fact, that 7.1% figure has been calculated by combining the May increase as a lump sum, and then adding that to the 5.5% increase in August (plus a small error in weighting the lowest paid quantile that adds 0.1%). Apart from the error, this approach might be a valid calculation in comparing the Imperial offer to UCEA’s but it is not actually what the offer amounts to as a consolidated salary rise: it effectively inflates the 5.5% rise with a one-off payment.

Imperial’s management are trying to give the impression that their offer is worth significantly more than the 0.5% difference in the headline rate of 5.5% compared to UCEA’s 5.0%. In fact it will cost them 0.24%, slightly less than half of 0.5% more to implement compared to UCEA’s. Imperial can afford to do rather better than that.

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Full calculations can be seen in this spreadsheet: ImperialvsUCEAOffersCompWeb

Why we are on strike

We are on strike to defend our pay.

With general inflation at around 10% for the last 2 years, and augmented hikes on everyday overheads such as food, energy bills, and housing, people and companies are feeling severe financial pressure.

If organisations do not proportionally increase their workers’ wages in line with the increased cost of living, then they become effectively poorer and less able to live their lives with dignity.

Imperial College conducts pay bargaining with its local Joint Trade Union (JTU) branches. Last year management’s imposition of a 3.3% pay offer without JTU agreement was simply too much for staff to bear: a 3% pay award with inflation at over 10% is essentially a 7% pay cut. The offer felt particularly callous as we moved out of the pandemic, where the labours of staff had been absolutely extraordinary, and the subject of near-universal internal and external praise. Members of all three trade unions voted to enter a formal dispute with the College in September 2022. Sadly, this dispute has not been resolved, and the problem has only become more pronounced.

Imperial is one of the wealthiest universities in the UK and can easily afford to protect its staff pay against the steep rises in the cost of living.  In this year’s pay award cycle, the JTU put in a pay claim of 10.5% – an amount which we clearly show is affordable by the College, and is only attempting to protect the value of staff pay against the current inflation rate.

Alas, Imperial is now imposing a pay award of 5.2% for this year, which, for the second year in a row, is going to make College staff significantly poorer in real terms.

Nobody wants industrial action. But the staff at Imperial College recognise that management are simply not listening to arguments based on logic and compassion. They are role playing in one of the worst aspects of end-stage capitalism and modern business development, viz. the marketisation of higher education, where staff are treated as a cost to be managed. We are in a position where we feel the only way management will listen is by the credible, and legal, threat of withdrawing our labour via forms of strike action.

Members of all three trade unions have voted for strike action over a shared dispute, for the first time in Imperial College’s rich and varied history.

The UCU have commenced their marking and assessment boycott (MAB) and there are 5 days of strike action declared during this term.

If we do not do this, the College will continue to erode the value of pay and conditions at Imperial. And we are not just doing this for to protect our pay this year, but for the more global and fundamental purpose of protecting our university from becoming yet another business, and ensuring the profession is one that aspiring academics will still want to join. This affects us all.

You can help by emailing the President and Provost of Imperial College and asking them to pay their staff fairly.

UCU and Unite members on the picket line, May 2023

March 2023 Strike Information

The strike dates for March 2023 are:

  • Wednesday 15th March
  • Thursday 16th March
  • Friday 17th March
  • Monday 20th March
  • Tuesday 21st March
  • Wednesday 22nd March

All of the above strike dates relate to the USS pension dispute. The 15th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd are also related to the local dispute on pay.

Imperial’s local Unite branch is also on strike on the 22nd over the local dispute on pay.

Rebuttal to the VP(Education)’s message to students on the strike

Imperial UCU were concerned that Professor Peter Haynes, the Vice Provost (Education & Student Experience)’s message to students regarding the ongoing industrial action contained some misleading and inaccurate statement. Herewith the rebuttal to Professor Haynes’ message, as sent to student members of the UCU:

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Dear UCU student member

On Tuesday this week (7 Feb), all Imperial students received an email from the Vice-Provost (VP – Education & Student Experience) about the current dispute over USS pensions and pay. This email contains several errors and misleading statements that we would like to address here.

1)    The VP states: “Please be assured that you will not be examined on any content which you have not been taught as a result of strike action.”

In many cases where the exam papers have already been written, this may not be the case. 

2)    The VP states that “Funds will be directed to the Student Support Fund in the first instance”. This is what UCU always requests when we are forced to take industrial action.  Unfortunately, management has a different perspective.

The Provost’s email on the same day states:

Funds will be directed to the Student Support Fund by default, although individual departments will be able to claim for any additional support they need to mitigate the impacts of the industrial action on students.”

In other words, the priority for deducted salaries from strike action will be for departments to spend first. Any cash that is left over, will only then be given to the student hardship fund. 

3)    The VP states that “We will keep advocating strongly for reforms to USS to secure a fairer, more sustainable and affordable scheme for all members.”

This sounds good but has been flatly contradicted by a statement this week (7 Feb)***from senior management to UCU, in which they refuse to join the many other UK universities that have committed to reversing the USS pension cuts if the next valuation shows a healthy balance.. Instead, the College will only commit to supporting an “accelerated valuation timetable”. The College would prefer to leave open the option of reducing employer contributions. Presumably by stating “affordable to all members”, the College has in mind employers.

4)    Finally, the VP states in his email that “our priority is your education”, which we believe is simply not true.

If that were their priority, Imperial College would be supporting the staff who make your education possible at a time of crisis. The College priority appears to be student tuition fees and property deals even at the expense of staff and students. 

Regards
Imperial UCU Branch Committee

This what solidarity looks like

Solidarity action: Imperial Events Meeting cancelled (28 February 2023)

UCU Imperial branch is grateful to the distinguished journalist, author and broadcaster, Kenan Malik, who has withdrawn from an Events Meeting on Tuesday 28th February organised by the College, in solidarity with our strike action demanding an improved pay offer for all staff at Imperial. The meeting was originally organised to discuss his latest book Not So Black and White on race, class, and identity politics. However, he withdrew in support of our dispute over pensions, pay and working conditions in higher education, when it became apparent the meeting fell on a strike day in our dispute over local pay.

As Kenan said: “I don’t cross picket lines, and I support the strikes”.

No picketing at South Ken on 1 February

Wednesday will see up to half a million workers strike across the UK: teachers and support workers in schools in every town and city, civil service staff and train drivers on the rail network. 38,000 members have joined the NEU since the announcement of their ballot result. It will be a historic day.

The scale of the action means we cannot mount effective picketing on campus on Wednesday morning. So instead please join strike activities wherever you live – whether that’s a picket at your local school or the protests being organised in many towns and cities. These have been organised by the main school union, so they will all be family-friendly events!

We hope many of you can join the all-London march and rally, called by the National Education Union and supported by UCU and the Public and Civil Service union. The UCU feeder march assembles at 10.30am in Malet Street in Bloomsbury. It’s just a short walk to Portland Place where we will form a UCU block for the main march. Check for full details and updates on the UCU London Region website.

🔥 London March and Rally: STRIKE TOGETHER, MARCH TOGETHER 

Called by NEU. Supported by PCS, UCU, RMT.

🔥 UCU BLOCK: Assemble 10.30am Malet Street WC1E (leaves 11am SHARP)

🔥 March Departs 11.45am Portland Place W1A 1AA for a rally at Westminster 

Post-demo social: (from 3pm or when demo finishes) Food & drink available, Walkers of Whitehall, 15a Craigs Court SW1A 2DD (just off Whitehall). All welcome. Hosted by Lambeth, Hackney and Redbridge NEU and UCU London Region.

Strike Information for 24, 25, 30 November 2022

UCU members at Imperial College London have two separate mandates to take strike action. The first dispute is UK-wide and is in opposition to cuts to the USS pension scheme. The second – that of pay – is local to Imperial, because College management withdrew from national collective bargaining on pay several years ago. UCU – alongside Unite – will be taking action against management’s disgraceful imposition of real-terms pay cuts on 30 November. Unison’s ballot for industrial action also closes on that day.

The following information, advice and guidance is specific to Imperial. For more general information, please refer to the UCU main pages, in particular the FAQs. If you have questions or comments please contact any of the elected UCU reps or email ucu-office@imperial.ac.uk.

Picketing details

In person picketing will take place on each of the three mornings starting at 8am. Picketing will only take place on the South Kensington campus. The Exhibition Road vehicle and pedestrian entrance to Imperial College Road will be the main hub for us. If you’re not sure where to go when you turn up, please report to this location.

At 10.30 am each day we will hold a meeting with all in-person picketers. We’ll then continue picketing in person until lunchtime.

Picket supervisors

The picket supervisors will be Roddy Slorach and Toby Andrew. Please contact one of them if you have any concerns on the day. Any person not involved with the strike action with a concern should be directed towards them.

How can you support us?

  • Join the strike days on 24, 25 and 30 November! Meet 8am on Exhibition road.
  • Support the Action Short of Strike (ASOS) from 30 November
  • Email management (president@ic.ac.uk, provost@ic.ac.uk) to say you support the staff pay claim (template here)
  • Speak with colleagues and students about the disputes (student info slides available)
  • Update your out-of-office and email signature (template here)
  • Join a union. There are three at Imperial College: UCU, Unite, Unison
  • If you are a Unison member and have received a ballot, please post it urgently and let your rep know you have voted

Statement from the Joint Trade Unions

Our pay claim is modest. It would partially protect the value of our salaries at Imperial – and is affordable to the College. However, the College has rejected the claim outright, instead insisting upon a dismal 3.3% offer (which is yet another pay cut in real terms), a derisory one-off “cost of living supplement” that does nothing to offset the effects of inflation and the insulting suggestion of setting up a “pop-up shop” to sell “discounted food staples” to impoverished staff members and students.

In the face of such intransigence and wrong College priorities, the only thing that will focus the minds of senior management is to take decisive industrial action that cannot be ignored. That is why we are asking for you to join the 3-days of strike action with the aim of shutting down the College. If we do this, we believe the dispute could be swiftly resolved. We would like to remind you that all staff can legitimately join the 3-day strike action, whether or not you are currently in a union, since ALL employees are legally entitled to do this:

“Non-union staff and striking:  If non-union members go on strike, they are protected from dismissal and have the same rights as union members, as long as the industrial action is lawful.” (https://www.gov.uk/if-your-business-faces-industrial-action/nonunion-employees-and-strikes)

Please note that the situation at Imperial is distinct from most universities involved in strike action in that pay is a local issue here because our employer withdrew from national pay bargaining. UCU members will therefore take strike action over USS pensions on 24 and 25 November and over pay on 30 November.

Industrial action being taken:

UCU: National strike over pensions (24, 25 & 30 November) & ASOS (23 Nov onwards)

UCU and Unite: Branch strike action over pay at Imperial (30 November).  UCU two additional measures of ASOS (30 Nov onwards)

UNISON: Balloting membership for strike action over local pay

 

Strike fund

National UCU is making its Fighting Fund available to those members who participate in the strike according to these rules:

  • Daily rates will be £75 for members in UCU subscription bands F3-6 (those earning under £30,000) and £50 for members in bands F0-F2 (those earning £30,000 and over)
  •  All members participating in strike action will be able to claim for the second day of the strike action onwards
  • The officers will review this position and make further decisions if / when further strike action is called in the new year.