We’ve been underpaying our staff admits GCU Principal

In our campus trade unions’ appeal to students in the week beginning 14th November, we explained our case for better pay and conditions, and called on students to contact Pamela Gillies, Principal of GCU, and ask her to pressurise the University and Colleges Employers Association to award staff a fair wage.

Staff have lost 25% of their pay in real terms in the last 12 years (here is the UCU position EIS position and Unison position on this).

The GCU Students Association, also supported our position and asked students to contact the Principal and likewise demand that GCU put pressure on UCEA for positive change.

A week later, on 17th November the Times Higher Education (you can link to the non paywall edition of story here) reported that Professor Gillies had made a statement in favour of more investment in staff while talking at a Times Higher Education Campus Live event that day in London.

In a session entitled Vice Chancellor’s Question Time professor Gillies is reported as saying:

We’ve been underpaying our staff for many, many years, and our staff really are angry now

She followed this by stating:

Colleagues, I really think now’s the time we have to address this underpayment issue seriously

And following this up by remarking that

teaching had improved since the pandemic and that it was time for investment in training people to match the money pumped into acquiring technology. There will need to be a lot more investment in the human side of these new learning opportunities than we’ve actually had the time or the space to invest in because of Covid

She ended by stating that:

Our staff are our jewels in the crown, and we need to properly reward them

While welcoming this statement and now looking for action to back it up, it is fair to say that most staff at GCU who have spoked to the campus unions are showing astonishment, given that senior management have never acknowledged this throughout the sixteen year period of professor Gillies’ tenure here.

Professor Gillies’ time as Principal of Glasgow Caledonian ends on December 31st this year

Earlier in 2022, when the Financial and General Purpose committee of GCU Court reported an unexpected multi-million pounds operating surplus (in double figures), the then Academic Staff representative on Court, Douglas Chalmers, argued that given our sound financial exit from the pandemic, GCU needed to put aside sufficient funds to award staff a cost of living plus increase, given the extra mile they were acknowledged to have gone during lockdown.

This was not accepted by either the Finance and General Purpose Committee of Court, nor Court itself, where Dr Chalmers again proposed this. No member of senior management came in to support the Academic staff rep’s proposal.

Workload and low pay remains endemic in the University Sector. HESA figures last year reported that Glasgow Caledonian had the third highest student staff ratio amongst post-92 Universities in Scotland.

This is not acceptable for a University for the Common Good, and it is important that the words of our outgoing Principal are brought swiftly to the attention of our incoming Principal Stephen Decent, so that, notwithstanding the better current settlement that we hope to have won by then, 2023 is the year that sees a re-calibration of our investment priorities in practice

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