The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) said it was a “direct recommendation” to universities across the UK that they dock staff pay up to 100 per cent for the days they take “short action of a strike”.
The University and College Union (UCU) has warned that the move was to “try to intimidate staff” from taking industrial action.
Union members across the UK have voted to work to contract for ten days from next week, which includes not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures or classes canceled due to strike action and not undertaking any voluntary activities. Some staff at 68 universities will take up to ten days of strike action beginning next week over cuts to staff pensions and worsening pay and working conditions, with over one million students set to be impacted.
Raj Jethwa, chief executive of UCEA, said it was a “direct recommendation” for universities to dock pay.
He said: “The legal basis is that employers are completely within their rights to withhold pay for partial performance, they do not have to accept partial performance. Our recommendation was actually that it should be 100 per cent of pay withheld. Some institutions are adopting a lesser figure and that’s a matter for them and they’re perfectly within their rights to do it, but we’re going beyond that. They’re not only entitled, we think they’re compelled to do so.”
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He added: “Students will be suffering as a result of this. Institutions will be accountable for what they do in order to make sure the student experience is protected, especially after two years of other forms of disruption because of Covid and other factors.”
The union added that these actions from senior management would only “escalate” the disputes and disrupt student learning further. However, they said that as yet, no Scottish universities had said they would dock pay for employees working to contract.
Mary Senior, Scotland official for UCU, said: “It’s hugely disappointing to see that the universities employers’ body is recommending docking pay from members who are doing their jobs. Trying to intimidate staff from taking lawful industrial action is not only deeply unfair, but will only escalate and prolong the dispute. Many university staff are currently working strictly to their contract. The fact that university bosses are using this as a reason to withhold pay demonstrates how much the sector relies on staff working themselves into the ground and beyond what they’re contractually required to do.
“Rather than trying to persuade universities to take punitive action, university bodies should be looking to resolve the dispute, seriously consider UCU’s pensions proposals and make a fair offer on pay and working conditions.”
Alistair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said that institutions north of the border were in a worse financial position than their counterparts in England and Wales due to government cuts to funding which equate to more than £800 less per student per year.
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