By Anna Tatham
Union activity cost Durham University £36,188.59 in the same year strikes caused widespread disruption to the teaching timetable, figures have shown.
Newly released data has revealed that facility time, which is money spent on paying staff to take part in union activity during work hours, cost British Universities a total of £9.8m in the 2017/18 academic year.
Universities spent more on union pay last year than police and schools expenditure combined.
In an article published in The Daily Telegraph, facility time was described as helping unions “launch aggressive political campaigns that invariably call for disruptive strikes, higher taxes and misery for students.”
In February this year, as reported by Palatinate, a ballot of Durham’s 853 University and College Union (UCU) members resulted in 88% approval for strike action and a further 93% approval for other forms of industrial action, in the row over changes to pension remunerations.
The series of strikes organised by the UCU halted lectures and teaching at Durham, and at 64 other institutions nationwide, for a period of four teaching weeks. In total, 575,000 teaching hours across the UK were lost to industrial action, according to UCU figures.
Professor Alan Houston, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) at Durham University, said: “We appreciate there has been student concern about the impact of the strike action on their studies, and we have worked hard to informally resolve and mitigate any potential disruption. We are confident that we will still be able to deliver student programme learning outcomes despite the effects of the strike.”
“Durham University recognises four trade unions – University and College Union (UCU), Unite, G.M.B and Unison. The proper representation of Durham University staff within these unions is of real value to sustaining good employee relations.”
The University is legally required to provide time off for elected representatives of these unions to attend trade union activities.
Last month the UCU opened a ballot amongst its 147 university members over the possibility of new strikes in the next academic year, in a continued row over pay.
Universities will vote on whether to accept the pay rise of 2% offered by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA).
UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “The pay offers do nothing to address years of decline in the value of our members’ pay and have left us with no option but to ballot for strike action.”
In the initial consultative ballot in June, 82% of members voted to reject the offer, and 65% said they were prepared to take industrial action.
The national strike ballot opened on 30th August and will close on 19th October.
Photograph: Chris Bertram via Flickr