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      UCU suspends strike at Sheffield University International College to win back paltry salary offer

      Representatives of the University and College Union (UCU) have called off a five-day educators’ strike that was due to start on February 13 at the University of Sheffield International College (USIC). The strike was called off on February 8 to put UCU members to a vote on a revised wage offer that amounts to another slap in the face.

      Around 80 USIC educators became the first to strike at a private higher education provider in the UK last November with three days of walkouts.

      Educators on the picket outside Sheffield University International College, Solly Street, 30th November 2022 (Photo: WSWS)

      They carried out another four days of strike on January 30 and 31 and February 2 and 3 and have carried out a work to govern since November 21. The five days of strikes represented an escalation in industrial action. This was suspended by the UCU based on the latest offer submitted which in no way meets the mandatory demand for a 12 per cent pay increase.

      In the announcement of the decision on the USIC UCU Twitter page it said: “We have suspended our strike next week. We have been offered a 10 per cent pay increase over two years for staff earning less than £44,000 and an 8 per cent increase for staff earning more than £44,000. Most of this is retroactive. We will now consult members on this offer.”

      USIC is connected to the University of Sheffield and uses its coat of arms, providing preparation courses for foreign students and is owned by the Study Group. It has contracts with 50 universities to deliver online and face-to-face learning and is one of the largest corporate providers of international education to universities in the UK, Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

      On the pickets, full-time professors and those on short-term contracts joined with homemade banners refuting the claim that a higher cost of living was unaffordable. These showed charts of the salaries of senior managers from Study Groups numbering over £100,000 a year tripled in recent years and director positions advertised for up to £130,000. The starting fee for a full-time professor at USIC is approximately £32,000, well below the national average of £38,131. Office and support staff are hired full-time at just over minimum wage.

      Three days before suspending the action to recover the substandard treatment, a thread on the USIC UCU Twitter page read: “Last week we also notified our employer that we would be taking a full week of strike action, starting Monday, February 13. (next week). We demand a fair wage increase.”

      Study Group’s latest paltry pay offer is: three percent payable beginning September 1, 2022; two per cent for staff earning less than £44,000 per annum payable from 1 January 2023; one percent for all staff payable effective January 1, 2023; and four per cent for all staff for the 2023/24 academic year with 4 per cent paid on 1 September 2023. A one-time payment of £300 to clerical staff earning little more than the minimum wage has not been reinstated since management withdrew it in the latest ACAS arbitration service talks.


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