Strike: 25 November – 4 December

UCU Edinburgh is joining other branches across the UK in taking industrial action to defend pensions, pay and equality.  We will be taking strike action 25 November – 4 December, and after that taking action short of a strike by working to contract.

More information on the strike and action short of a strike is available here:

Join the UCU, join the action!


Key Points on the Pay and Pensions disputes (video)

UCU Sheffield organised a briefing this week for both members and non-members on the disputes and were lucky enough to have a member film the talks so they could be shared more widely. In the first video, Sheffield UCU President and USS negotiator, Sam Marsh, explains what’s going on with USS, while in the second video, Sheffield UCU VP and pay negotiator, Robyn Orfitelli, explains what’s going on with the pay & equalities dispute.

Pensions (USS)

Pay & Equalities


Anti-Casualisation: A Step Forward but More to Do

Employment of Guaranteed Hours Teaching Staff and Fixed-Term Academic Staff: Statement on Agreement reached with University management

UCU members will recall that the branch submitted a claim in to the new Principal on tackling casualisation at the University of Edinburgh.

The claim was submitted in February 2018. Since then, UCU negotiators have been in talks with senior university management with regular updates on progress and obstacles encountered reported to the branch. Crucially, the UCU postgraduate and postdoctoral / anti-casualisation network have been at the centre of the decision-making process.

Campaign activities were also key in raising the profile of the appalling plight faced by many of the casualised staff, with a particularly well-attended lobby of the University Court. The student union provided moral and physical support.

A collective agreement has now been reached. This was approved by the postgraduate and postdoctoral / anti-casualisation network and formally agreed by the branch committee.

The agreement includes positive statements/progress on:

  • Guaranteed Hours staff exception rather than norm;
  • Written notification of hours in advance of starting work (expectation);
  • An agreement that Colleges and Schools should ensure that casualised staff are paid for all work they are required to do, including when such work relates to induction, required training and agreed professional development;
  • Fractional contract if someone is employed on more than an 0.2 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) basis over 2 years;
  • The right to incremental pay progression;
  • Annual reviews – including an agreed number of hours for professional development;
  • The employer and UCU agree the need to develop clear guidance regarding the management of staff on fixed-term contracts and will commit to doing so by January 2020.

There are also some areas contained in our claim where we were unable to win an immediate improvement (yet). The key areas are:

  1. Although we have a principled agreement that casualised staff should be paid for all the work they do, we were unable to get the university management to agree minimum tariffs and pay rates for various tasks. We did manage to agree new enhanced guidance to schools and agreed review (in schools).
  1. The management were unwilling to agree the end of 9/10 month contracts immediately, saying that it would take until 2020/21 to phase them out. We have continued to press this point. Members both in Edinburgh and beyond will have noted the recent public outcry over these exploitative contracts, but despite this outcry and despite the positive steps by universities such as Durham in moving all such staff to mininum 12 month contracts (with 12 months’ pay), University of Edinburgh refuses to budge on this point.

Importantly, the agreement notes that the staff covered (many of whom are early-career staff) may feel vulnerable raising issues about the amount of work they are being expected to do within their schools and that union representatives can raise these matters for individuals and that ‘collectively agreed grievance procedures may be invoked’.

Finally, it is clear that the approach taken by the branch – involving the relevant members in the content of a collective claim then submitting it formally to the university management for bi-lateral negotiations – helped bring focus to the collective bargaining process. We were clear on where we were making progress, where we were not, and by university standards made progress in a relatively speedy fashion. Implementation of the agreement will be jointly monitored by the UCU and the university management.

However, the negotiators and branch committee are clear that this is a step forward but that we feel the operation of the agreement over the next year will show that there is a still a need to address some fundamental issues with the amount of time casualised staff are paid for. One recent example of exploitation of precariously employed staff was the decision last year to move away from the school workload model for precariously employed staff in Moray House, without consulting the union, which meant a real terms pay cut for hourly paid staff in the school. UCU has raised this consistently with the employer, and our new collective agreement commits to consultation on workload models across the University.

The work of this past year is just one part of our longstanding campaign to defend members’ job security and working conditions. We have ideas for taking the campaign forward and will be discussing these with the postgraduate and postdoctoral / anti-casualisation network.

Get involved!

Joint Statement

The University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh UCU restate their commitment to working in partnership to enhance the employment experience of those employed on Guaranteed Hours and Fixed-Term contracts.

The University and UCU have agreed a programme of work to address issues of particular concern to teaching staff employed on guaranteed minimum hour contracts. The University and UCU have also committed to review the number and duration of fixed-term teaching fellowship contracts, and to take this forward to effectively consider the formal claim submitted by UCU in February 2018.

Whilst the University and UCU agree that progress has been made since the move away from ‘hours to be notified’ and introduction of ‘guaranteed hours’ (GH) contracts and welcome the development of the policy for the recruitment, development and support of tutors and demonstrators, it is also recognised that more needs to be done to ensure that GH staff are fairly paid for all of the work they are asked to do and to reduce the insecure nature of these contracts.

To address this, work has already commenced, piloted by the Schools of Languages, Literature and Culture and History, Classics and Archaeology, to gain a better understanding of the make-up of our GH population and whether the work they do could be consolidated into more substantive part-time or full-time posts.

We have also agreed to ask all Schools/Deaneries to confirm that they have embedded key policy components in their School level handbook for tutors and demonstrators.

We aim to complete this analysis across all Schools/Deaneries by August 2018.

The University and UCU recognise that it is in all our interests to put sufficient energy and commitment into resolving this in a timely manner.

A programme of fortnightly negotiating meetings has been scheduled to discuss this information, and other data relating to fixed-term contracts, to generate proposals for consideration by October 2018 by UCU members and the University Executive.

Professor Jane Norman, Vice-Principal, People and Culture
James Saville, Director of HR
On behalf of the University of Edinburgh

Grant Buttars, Honorary President
On behalf of UCU Edinburgh

Also on the University website

Principal’s Pay Hits the Headlines

As UCU members prepare to take strike action to defend our pensions, the large salary and benefits package being awarded to incoming Principal and Vice Chancellor, Peter Mathieson, has hit the headlines of a number of newspapers.

Neil Hanna
07702 246823
Incoming Principal, Peter Mathieson (image courtesy of The Student)

James Delaney in The Scotsman on 1st Febrary reported:

Edinburgh University principal to get 33% pay hike

Professor Peter Mathieson will take home over £85,000 more than his predecessor as part of a whopping £410,000 welcome package, with benefits including a ‘grace-and-favour’ five-bedroom house in the centre of the capital.

In addition to a basic salary of £342,000 – up from the £257,000 paid to Timothy O’Shea, who stepped down in September – Mr Mathieson will receive £42,000 “in lieu of pension contributions,” as well as a further £26,000 in relocation costs.

The announcement comes less than three weeks before staff at over 60 UK universities, including Edinburgh, prepare for industrial action in a row over pensions.

In The Times, Daniel Sanderson reported on the same day

The new principal of the University of Edinburgh has become the highest-paid figure in Scottish higher education after agreeing a salary package worth almost £400,000 a year.

Peter Mathieson, who begins work this week after moving from Hong Kong University, will be paid a basic salary of £342,000, £85,000 more than his predecessor. He will also receive about £42,000 in lieu of pension contributions, the university will cover one-off relocation costs of £26,000 and he will live in a five-bedroom grace-and-favour home in central Edinburgh.

He has defended the package offered by the university’s remuneration committee. Professor Mathieson also outlined plans to improve the student experience by making greater use of technology and signalled his determination to widen access to more students from poorer backgrounds.

Mary Senior, Scotland official for the University and College Union, said: “It is galling for ordinary staff to see the spiralling pay and perks of university principals when university leaders say there is no money for staff pay and pensions. People feel betrayed.”

In a follow-up article the following day, Sanderson looked at this in a broader context.

University principals have been accused of “feathering their own nests” by opting out of pension schemes and instead negotiating large top-ups to their salaries.

About a third of principals at Scottish universities have stopped paying into the higher education pension scheme. Rather than foregoing contributions from their employer, however, they are receiving tens of thousands of pounds extra in their pay packets.

Staff representatives said the practice was unfair as workers on low or average salaries had no entitlement to top-up payments if they chose to leave the pension scheme. The issue is particularly sensitive as university staff are preparing to strike over efforts to impose less generous pension terms.

Jim McDonald, principal of Strathclyde University, received £54,000 in lieu of pension contributions last year, in addition to his £299,000 salary, according to annual accounts.

Peter Mathieson, of Edinburgh University, this week became the highest paid vice-chancellor in Scotland after accepting an annual package worth almost £400,000, which includes £42,000 instead of pension contributions.

Paying into the university scheme can prove inefficient from a tax perspective if pension pots hit a £1 million limit. Although staff can continue to pay into the scheme, contributions above £1 million are taxed, so some high earners request a salary top-up instead.

Mary Senior, Scotland official for the University and College Union, said that principals should accept the same pension arrangements as their staff, and that refusing to do so was “poor leadership”. She said the situation showed there was “one rule for a few at the top and one for everybody else”.

The union has announced a wave of strike action, starting this month, over efforts to change the pension scheme that would mean staff no longer have a guaranteed level of retirement income.

Ms Senior added: “Staff in universities do not have the option of requesting extra money to best suit their private pension or tax arrangements. Principals feathering their own nests while backing changes to slash staff pensions is one of the reasons staff are so angry.”

Principals at Queen Margaret, Glasgow Caledonian, Edinburgh Napier and Dundee universities also receive salary top-ups instead of pension contributions. The option is open to all high earners at universities who hit the £1 million limit. Pay of senior figures in education is under fresh scrutiny since Professor Mathieson’s salary was agreed on. His basic salary of £342,000 is £85,000 higher than his predecessor.

The university has defended the contract by pointing to Edinburgh’s annual income of almost £1 billion and saying it represents a pay cut for Professor Mathieson, compared with his previous role at the University of Hong Kong.

Luke Humberstone, the president of NUS Scotland, said: “At a time when the poorest higher education students are taking on the greatest debt just to get by, it beggars belief that any university principal would be handed this supersize salary. Our universities are educational charities which receive over a billion pounds of public money.”

A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland said pay was decided by university remuneration committees. She added: “This would include the decision to offer an alternative to pension contributions, if and when this no longer becomes an effective way for someone to save for retirement. Staff and student voices can be heard in remuneration committees and will be consulted with.”

Principal top-ups Scottish university principals’ salary top-ups in lieu of pension contributions Jim McDonald £54,000 Strathclyde University Peter Mathieson £42,000 University of Edinburgh Pamela Gillies £36,000 Glasgow Caledonian Pete Downes £32,000 University of Dundee Andrea Nolan £30,000 Edinburgh Napier Petra Wend £8,000* Queen Margaret University *opted out of scheme mid-way through year

Meanwhile, The Student conducted an interview with Mathieson, where he defended his award.

On principle couldn’t you have said no to the salary?

I could’ve done I guess, but I was already taking a substantial pay cut.

The article also revealed that:

There are 21 members of Edinburgh university staff are earning over £200,000 a year while a survey conducted by The Student found that one in seven of your postgraduate tutors earn less than £500 a month.

It would seem that the issue is not one of available funds but of priorities.

Guaranteed Hours Contracts

This page used to host a template letter, written by GH tutors, but has been temporarily unpublished due to University management requests. If you are a GH tutor at the University of Edinburgh, and would like to know how other tutors explain their working conditions to students, please get in touch with the organisers of the UCU PG & PD Network and/or attend their next meeting at 15.00 – 16.00, Wednesday 24 October at the Union Offices.