The University of Oxford’s new vice-chancellor plans to commission an independent review of pay, pensions and working conditions, recognising the need to make it an attractive place to work.
Professor Irene Tracey, the university’s first vice-chancellor to have been educated at a comprehensive school, said the university needed to focus on its staff, who she described as “the lifeblood of any university”.
Speaking at her admission ceremony this week, Tracey announced a new commission on all aspects of staff pay and conditions.
“We must find ways to shift the needle in your quality of life so that you can continue to deliver your best performance,” she told staff.
“I have heard the strength of feeling on pay and working conditions, and it is a priority for me to make sure the University is doing everything it can to support staff during these difficult financial times and to be an attractive place to work in the future.”
Pay at universities
Tracey also spoke about the need to make teaching posts “tenable”, and about developing lifelong skills in students from any background.
The University of Oxford was among the institutions affected by an ongoing dispute with trade unions over pay, conditions and worker casualisation. In November, more than 70,000 academic and non-academic staff at UK universities went on strike.
The University and College Union (UCU) and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which represents university employers in negotiations with trade unions, have agreed to bring forward the 2023/24 pay round as the cost of living soars.
The union’s general secretary Jo Grady said the UCEA has refused to make an offer for 2022/23, but the UCEA has said it cannot reopen negotiations for this year.
She said: “The dedicated staff who work in our universities have not had an above-inflation pay rise in 13 years. They deserve so much better than to be strung along by employers.
“The joint trade unions [which include the UCU, Unite, Unison, GMB and the Educational Institute of Scotland) are eager to resolve the disputes but can only do so if fair offers for both 2022/23 and 2023/24 are forthcoming. By not even providing a starting offer, UCEA is undermining trust in negotiations and putting the entire university sector on a collision course with unprecedented industrial action.”
Raj Jethwa, UCEA’s chief executive said: “UCU should be honest with their members and stop implying these negotiations are for last year’s deal (2022-23) as well for 2023-24. We have been constantly clear that while UCEA cannot re-open the 2022-23 pay round, which our member HE institutions have consistently confirmed as fully concluded, we have all remained committed to the possibility of bringing forward the [2023-24] pay negotiations in response to cost-of-living concerns. But threats of needless industrial action are testing this unique negotiation attempt by employers and will do nothing to support students, staff or the many HE institutions working hard to avoid redundancies or maintain staffing levels.”