University of South Wales branded ‘immoral’

The University of South Wales (USW) has been branded ‘immoral’ for planning to employ new support staff on greatly reduced pay and inferior employment contracts whilst sitting on reserves of £100m.

The changes will affect incoming support staff, including workers in I.T., examinations, academic registry, libraries, estates, accommodation and student support from 1 December 2020. Academic staff will not be affected.

Employees have criticised the institution for planning to create a subsidiary USW will completely own. Staff say it is an unsavoury business tactic to enable the university to erode pay and employment conditions over time, making the local community and South Wales poorer.

The subsidiary will allow them to employ support staff on lower wages; inferior pensions; reduced maternity and paternity pay; reduced annual leave and reduced sick pay. In most cases, new starters will earn thousands of pounds less than existing colleagues doing exactly the same job and effectively be seen as second-class employees.

Staff unions, GMB and UNISON have reacted with anger and have pledged to enlist the support of students; the local community and politicians to resist the proposals. They are supported by the USW branch of university lecturers’ union, UCU.

The trade unions are keen to challenge the institution for misleading employees about their plans. GMB and UNISON say:

  • The plans are not a reaction to Covid and the development of the wholly-owned subsidiary was at an advanced stage in January 2020, months before the UK entered lockdown
  • Given the size of USW’s reserves, there is absolutely no need for this, even if student numbers decrease in the short-term with Covid, this could be managed without the need for a subsidiary company
  • USW takes its staff from communities with high levels of deprivation. By greatly reducing the pay of new starters, the university will be taking money away from a poorer area and failing in its civic duty
  • Female employees will be disproportionately affected as they comprise the majority of support staff.
  • Existing staff could eventually be transferred to the new company and its inferior employment contracts and where only a single trade union will be recognised

Nicola Savage, Education lead for GMB said,

“Quite frankly, this is an appalling, and unnecessary move for USW.  The University has confirmed that it holds millions of pounds in the coffers.  For many of our members who are Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) members, this move will have a serious impact on their future as well. The effects of reduced contributions into the LGPS will be significant.”

Dan Beard, UNISON USW branch secretary said,

“The university is behaving scandalously and not being honest with staff about what they are proposing. The trade unions successfully challenged moves by USW to employ new starters on greatly inferior contracts in April 2018 and we are absolutely determined to do so again.

“This move will tarnish USW’s academic reputation and students and the local community will see it for what it is: a highly divisive strategy.”

The trade unions have launched a petition, which they are encouraging members of the public to sign Stop University Of South Wales Plan For Second-Class Employees! and a social media campaign with the hashtag #100millionUSW.


Notes for editors

The University has recently announced a plan to no longer directly employ new Professional Support Staff but to instead make use of an outsourcing model – a wholly owned subsidiary that they own which will pay/offer:
  • Lower Wages
  • Far inferior pension
  • Less Maternity/Paternity pay
  • Less Annual Leave
  • Less Sick leave
  • No Flexitime
  • Performance related pay
  • No cost of living increase (unless directors say otherwise)
 The trade unions have analysed how employee terms and conditions will be affected:
USW current terms
USW subsidiary company projected terms
Pay – National Framework Agreement rates benchmarked across the entire HE sector
‘Market’ Rates, in the modelling looks between a 2k and 7k cut per pay band
Annual Leave – 27/35 days depending on pay grade with 4 closure days and B/Hs
25 days but 4 days taken for closure days so 21 days and B/Hs
Sick Leave – 6 months Full Pay, 6 Months Half Pay
1 month Full Pay, 2 months Half Pay
Maternity Leave – Standard NFA rate
Reduced to something just above statutory, this is the same for Paternity and Adoption leave
Paid Leave – Standard NFA including paid time off for funerals, dependent ill health, graduations, elected councillors, school governors and justice of the peace etc
Unpaid time off/ statutory only
Pay Protection – 2 years
6 months at discretion of management
Overtime – 1.5 for 6th day, 2.0 for 7th day and 0.10 for unsocial hours depending on Grade
1.5 for 7th day only, in addition changed working pattern to allow for weekend working with no enhancements
Pay Spine – 49 pay points with annual progression through points associated with pay grade
Reduced pay points only, with progression only allowed with management approval and ‘Good’ or ‘outstanding’ appraisal.  Essentially performance related pay
Annual Pay award – negotiated nationally and awarded to all participating bodies
Only paid if Directors agree it
Role Evaluation benchmarked to HERA standards and enforced via Policy and NFA
Stated they will keep HERA for time being but look at more appropriate framework in the near future.
UNISON, GMB and UCU recognised
Only one TU will be recognised
Pension – LGPS – Defined Benefit scheme with multiple tiers of ill health, early retirement and death in service provision
Proposed Defined contribution scheme with a maximum of 10% employer contribution and no ill health, early access or death in service provision.  (This is inferior to what they offered in 2018)


Alastair Gittins, UNISON Cymru Wales press officer on 07816 53 83 97

Tom Hoyles, GMB press and research on 07980 931 835