Vote for action on the gender pay gap

This post is based on the second in a series of emails sent by Cambridge UCU to members on the consultative pay ballot that closes at noon on Wednesday June 27Cambridge UCU strongly recommends that all members vote to reject the pay offer and in favour of industrial action.

What follows is the work of CUCU’s Equalities and Diversity working group, which draws on Cambridge’s 2017 Interim Equal Pay Review. While it focuses on the situation at Cambridge, much of its analysis applies across UK HE, which at current rates, is predicted to take 40 years to close the GPG. What we need from the employers is less fluff and more action.

The gender pay gap: the basics

The employers 2% final pay offer will lead to lower salary uplifts for women because of the significant gender pay gap. 

At Cambridge, the GPG including additional payments (total pay) is 20.0%, and excluding additional payments (i.e. basic pay) is 18.3%. The primary factor for the GPG is clear: men significantly outnumber women at the highest grades by more than 4:1 at grade 12, and by more than 2:1 at grade 11. In turn, women heavily outnumber men at grades 6 and below (63.1% women to 36.9% men).

Moreover, while 51.3% of University of Cambridge employees overall are female, the proportion of women among academic staff is only 29.3%, and, broken down by staff category, the GPG is worst for academics, with a difference in average total pay of 14.2%, which is just over £10,000.

The GPG in Cambridge is compounded by disparities between bonus payments made to men and women. Broken down by grade, these are particularly egregious at grade 3, where total pay gap of 5.3%, and the average bonus payment to women is £61, and to men, £1,121; and at grade 12, where the total pay gap is 2.2%, and the average extra payment to men is over £2,000 more than to women.

It is worth remembering that because UCU negotiates jointly on pay with five other HE unions, what is at stake in this pay campaign are significant uplifts for staff on all grades, including the lowest.

Bonus payments: an alarming trend

A perverse side effect of the fact that ‘standard’ pay scale increases have not kept up with inflation is that in Cambridge there is an increased reliance on Additional Payments and Market Related Payments as part of pay packages. The average additional payment has risen from £273 in 2008 (adjusted to 2018 £) to £886. Notably, the total value of Market Related Payments has grown from £1,105,716 in 2008 (again adjusted to 2018 £) to £4,068,557. This is a major problem for several reasons:

  • Bonus payments disproportionately go to staff at the top of the pay scales. A ‘two-tier’ system has developed, whereby some staff can negotiate individually for pay uplifts beyond basic pay, and the majority – academic-related and assistant staff in particular – are by and large left behind as their pay depreciates in real terms.
  • Bonus payments worsen the GPG. While the GPG has been decreasing year-on-year since 2008, the share of the gap that is due to additional payments has grown: the difference between the basic and total pay gaps has gone from 0.6 percentage points (2008) to 1.7 percentage points (2017).

In 2016-17, bonus payments for women totalled £2,612,593. For men they totalled  £8,055,345. In particular, the total value of Market Related Payments made to men was 3.5 times more than to women; of these, payments for retention were given out to almost five times more men than women, and averaged more than twice as much. But disparities in bonus pay are not just a problem for those at the top of the pay scales: recall that at grade 3 the average extra payment to women is £61, and to men, £1,121.

Rising living costs: the case of childcare

The decrease in real terms pay, covered at length in our last email, is aggravated by rapidly rising costs of living that make it even harder to attract more women and minority groups to Cambridge. Housing is often mentioned in this regard, but the problems are just as great when it comes to childcare and nursery costs.

For instance, while the overall pay increase (for all but the lowest spine points) since 2011 is 8.05%, fees at the University Nursery have increased since 2011 by 28.67%. They are set to increase by a further 4.5% on August 1 this year. The University provides a salary sacrifice scheme to help offset the cost of childcare, but this scheme is regressive and thus further exacerbates the gender pay gap. The steepest discount on nursery fees is disproportionally enjoyed by men, since their income is more likely to be taxed at a higher rate.

National and local action is needed

It is not hard to imagine ways to tackle the inequities described above. But we cannot be sure that our employer, or any other, will go  beyond gathering data and hosting glossy events. Closing the gender pay gap in HE will require pushing the employers nationally as well as locally. Reject the employers’ pay offer and vote for action to secure equal pay, and if you’re not yet a member of UCU, join now!