Open Letter to Alistair Fitt on Pay Offer

Joint open letter to Alistair Fitt in response to the all-staff communication on the pay settlement

Dear Alistair,

On behalf of both UCU and UNISON at Brookes, we are writing to you in response to the all-staff communication sent to colleagues earlier in the month about potential industrial action.

First of all, we welcome the fact that the University has adopted the Oxford Living Wage, which will benefit the lowest paid staff, and is something both unions have been demanding for a considerable time.

However, as you will know, the 3% pay offer by the national employer fails significantly to address the real terms reduction in our salaries over a number of years. We calculate that on average all staff whose salaries are nationally negotiated are now worth at least 20% less than they would have been if pay rises had simply kept pace with inflation over the last fifteen
years. This situation is, of course, worsening – with inflation for this year alone estimated to
reach 11%.

One UNISON colleague has calculated that she is now over £9,000 a year worse off now, compared with 2009, if her salary had kept up with increases in the cost of living over this period. The imposed 3% rise will mean her annual income will rise by £915 before tax, as against £4,115 if the employer had met UNISON’s claim.

She is not alone in having her pay effectively cut, and in the significant difference in value between the employer’s offer and the unions’ claims:

  • Someone in point 11 of the pay spine (the bottom) would get a rise of £1,105, as opposed to £2,753 if the claim was met.
  • .Someone in point 26 of the pay spine (the middle) would get a rise of £915, as opposed to £4,175 if the claim was met.
  • Someone in point 51 of the pay spine (the top) would get a rise of £1910, as opposed to £8,723 if the claim was met.

Can we remind you that many staff at Brookes do not benefit from an incremental increase in salary every year; and we do not accept, in any event, that increments represent a real terms pay rise per se.

Some of the lowest paid staff at Brookes are now routinely having to use food banks simply to survive, and this is before the massive increase in fuel costs in the Autumn. Perhaps, like Abingdon and Witney College, the University might consider setting up its own food bank if
it is not prepared to pay its staff adequately.

Unions do not ballot for strike action on a whim. We only do this when all other measures have failed. We do not do this, as your note implies, to ‘disrupt the education and university experience of students’; we do it because we have no other choice; and we do it to improve
the quality of the student experience – an underpaid workforce will not deliver the best quality of teaching and support, as we are sure you can appreciate.

You say you are disappointed that we have chosen to ask colleagues to take the legal and appropriate action to achieve a better pay settlement; but we are disappointed that as our VC you do not seem to have put the case of your staff to the national employer for an acceptable pay deal – something both unions have asked you to do over the last two years.

All five national unions who have decide to ballot members on taking industrial action, would hope that strikes will be unnecessary in the Autumn. But this will only be the case if local employers – such as yourself – are prepared to speak up for us, and demand that UCEA make a more reasonable offer.

Alan Reeve, Chair UCU at OBU
Simon Hogg, Chair UNISON, OBU