Professional issues

What would UCU like to see?

UCU believes that the status of further and higher education staff has been progressively undermined by the spread of casualisation, holding down of salaries, marketisation and an increasing encroachment on professional autonomy.

We would like to see greater recognition of the role of staff, including the need to eliminate the negative gap between the salaries of further education teachers and those who work in the compulsory sector. In higher education, UCU believes that the holding down of salaries for staff since 2010 has led to reducing morale. In both sectors workload is increasing as the expectations of students also rise.

Zero hours contracts are widespread but UCU sees no justification for this casual and uncertain form of employment, especially in education institutions as they diminish both the student experience and the value of academic teaching.

UCU has grave concerns about recent calls to crack down on legitimate union protest and industrial action. Although the most draconian proposals adversely affect public sector workers, UCU feels that the UK already has tough rules around strikes that do not need strengthening further.

Parties have outlined the importance of education in prisons and how they would like to see a greater focus on educating and training offenders as part of the rehabilitation process but we have in the past emphasised how the power of prison educators to help offenders turn their lives around is often squandered due to a lack of funding and constant retendering for teaching contracts.

What is each party proposing?



Conservative Party

  • Increase minimum wage to £8 by 2020
  • Ban exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts which stop people getting work elsewhere
  • Tighten strike rules so that decisions must be based on ballots in which at least half the workforce has voted. End the ban on using agency staff to cover striking workers and shorten the time limit for industrial action to take place after a ballot
  • Tax would start at £12,500 a year, instead of £10,500
  • Keep "triple lock" on state pensions so they rise by the highest of inflation, earnings or 2.5%

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(126 votes. Average rating: 3.10 out of 10)
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Green Party

  • Increase the minimum wage to £10 by 2020
  • End exploitative zero hours contracts
  • Introduce a statutory right to join a union, recognised by employers
  • Introduce a maximum pay ratio of 10:1 between the best paid and worst paid in every organisation

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(174 votes. Average rating: 8.11 out of 10)
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Labour Party

  • Increase the minimum wage to more than £8 an hour by 2019
  • Entitle workers on zero-hours contracts to convert their contracts into a regular job after only three months
  • Bring back the 10p tax rate and reverse the 50p tax cut for earnings over £150,000
  • Keep "triple lock" on state pensions so they rise by the highest of inflation, earnings or 2.5%

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(140 votes. Average rating: 6.64 out of 10)
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Liberal Democrats

  • Ask the Low Pay Commission to look at ways of raising the minimum wage and establish a review on setting a ‘living wage’
  • Raise the personal tax allowance to £11,000 in April 2016 and £12,500 by 2020
  • Allow zero hours workers to request a fixed contract and consult on introducing a right to make regular patterns of work contractual after a period of time
  • Keep "triple lock" on state pensions so they rise by the highest of inflation, earnings or 2.5%

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(90 votes. Average rating: 4.94 out of 10)
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Plaid Cymru

  • Living wage for all employees by 2020
  • Re-introduce 50p income tax rate for those earning over £150,000
  • End exploitative zero hours contracts
  • Increase level at which National Insurance contributions are paid to same level as income tax

Rate these policies:
(70 votes. Average rating: 6.59 out of 10)
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Scottish National Party

  • Raise minimum wage to £8.70 by 2020
  • End exploitative zero hours contracts
  • Want control of National Insurance and personal tax allowance
  • Maintain "triple lock" on state pensions so they rise by the highest of inflation, earnings or 2.5%
  • Support for Single Tier Pension rate of £160 per week

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(95 votes. Average rating: 5.56 out of 10)
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UCU analysis

As in previous years the majority of policies are being pitched at ‘hard working families’ with all the major parties proposing changes to the tax system which they all say will benefit working people, including cuts to income tax and lowering the rate at which low earners start to pay tax. Most parties are committed to ensuring state pension rise by either inflation, earnings or 2.5%, whichever is highest.

In advance of the recent budget the Conservatives proposed raising the minimum wage to £6.70 and have committed to £8 by 2020. Labour have gone further and pledged to increase it to over £8 per hour by 2019 whilst the Greens have gone further still with a target of £10 per hour by 2020. The Liberal Democrats announced a £1 rise for the apprenticeship minimum wage but have not confirmed figures on rises to the national minimum wage, although they have outlined plans to ask the Low Pay Commission to look at the options. They also propose an independent review to consult on the issue of a living wage.

Zero hours contracts is an area that all parties have pledged to tackle with options ranging from the Conservative suggestion that exclusivity clauses should be banned, through to Green proposals to ban the contracts outright. Labour have strengthened their previous position and will allow workers to the transfer to a full time contract after three months, as opposed to a year as originally proposed.

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