The Four Fights dispute is about demanding fair treatment for staff across the sector and a comprehensive remedy for the way in which your working conditions have been undermined over the past decade.
The combination of pay erosion, unmanageable workloads and the widespread use of insecure contracts has undermined professionalism and made the working environment more stressful for staff.
The average working week in higher education is now above 50 hours, with 29% of academics averaging more than 55 hours. A UCU survey conducted in December 2020 saw 78% of respondents reporting an increased workload during the pandemic.
The pay gap between Black and white staff is 17%. The disability pay gap is 9%. The mean gender pay gap is 15.1% and at the current rate of change it will not be closed for another 22 years.
Finally, workload, pay inequality and casualisation are all directly interrelated and compound one another. The recent UCU workload survey found that women, BAME and disabled staff were all disproportionately likely to report that their workload had increased, and the same groups are also disproportionately likely to be on casualised rather than permanent contracts.
This dispute is the latest in a long tradition of trade union members standing together for fair pay and safe working conditions, a tradition that includes the Ford sewing machinists strikes in the 1960s (Made in Dagenham – great film!) who helped to push through Equal Pay legislation.
Can our employers afford it?
Yes! The sector’s income is higher than ever but the proportion invested in staff is at an all-time low. Our employers are choosing instead to invest in shiny new buildings for which there is often no sensible business case, endless cycles of restructuring, broken IT systems, external consultants, and inflation-busting executive pay deals.