Is the university of Manchester serious about addressing cost-of-living impact on staff?

Here we explore the possible local options available to the University to allow it to address the cost of living crisis as well as meaningfully contribute to settling aspects of the four fights dispute. UoM often suggests pay is national and it has not local options, this is not true as reflected in recent alterations of the pay scales alignment to the pay spines. 

Recently, P&OD have reported to the campus unions, as a result of the national pay settlement, a proposal to increase the pay of our lowest paid staff, by moving them up the pay spine and increasing the level of the minimum pay spine point. UCU welcomes the step to provide better pay for our lowest paid colleagues, but we note that very few staff will benefit from this, whereas all staff continue to be hit by the increases in costs of living and the real-terms pay cuts that have been Imposed on us. We have called on the university to consider more widely how adjustments to the pay spine and pay grade alignment could be used to ameliorate this. There are many ways this could be done. So far, however, the university seems intent on further SUPPRESSION of academic pay this year, as strong anecdotal evidence suggests that a large proportion of promotion cases between grades and cases for incremental progression within Grade 9 have been rejected over the last couple of years. It appears that staff who would in previous years have been promoted or received an increment have been knocked back.  Raising the bar for promotion and progression in this way effectively reduces pay. And there are issues of intergenerational fairness (or even violations of the principle of equal pay for work of equal value) as younger staff are held back in lower grades where staff performing similarly in the past would have been promoted. ON the other hand, if the university were minded to address the effects of the cost-of-living crisis, they could take steps as other universities have done to effectively raise pay. UCL recently have agreed to move most staff up an increment, and increased the levels of the tops of the main academic/academic-related pay grades, thus allowing for future enhanced progression (as well as increasing the London weighting). See Will Manchester consider such steps? Or will we now be rewarded even more poorly than colleagues in comparable institutions? 

The below image shows the changes to grades 1 and 2 alongside the nationally negotiated spinal points. Due to overall low increments the lower pay spines are compressed against minimum wage and living wage commitments. If this continues then further compression of the pay spines will occur. This is also impacted by differential pay settlements as a % of income which tend to award higher percentages to lower grades, often again to minimise difficulties of minimum pay commitments. On the right the image shows the previous alignment of UoM grades 1 and 2 with the spine points in 2021. The left side of the image shows how these grades against spinal points have been adjusted in 2023 to try and ensure that staff are paid a wage that meets minimum and living wage commitments. It is evident this issue arises from spinal point increases being below inflation. Currently spinal point 7 is the lowest pay spine, whilst it was point 4 in 2021. 

Faced with this situation, what could UoM have done. One option would be to realign the whole of the UoM grades against the pay spines The example below on the right shows what would happen if in 2024 the University decided to do this. This would provide an incremental raise for all staff, was something that UCL did and would not be an issue in respect of national negotiations. 

Considerations around pay are further heightened when we consider run away VC pay in the sector, further details here: