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HE negotiations 2016-17

13 November 2015

After members voted against taking further action in a consultative ballot held during November 2016 the union stood down its 2016 work to contract industrial action as well as our call to external examiners to boycott those duties. This does not mean that UCU accepts the imposed 1.1% pay uplift. Read more on the consultative ballot here.

The latest offer from the employers included plans to tackle the gender pay gap and to deal with the problem of casual contracts and job insecurity for staff - key elements of the union's pay claim. However, it did not make an improvement on the 1.1% pay offer made by UCEA in April, which was just a 0.1% increase on the original 1% offer made in March.

For further information see: UCU response to UCEA's latest final offer

JNCHES settlement 2016-17 [226kb]


Why pay matters

November 2015

Over recent years the value of your pay has declined. The last above inflation pay rise was 2014, which followed a dispute. In October this year the Higher Education Committee (HEC) made a number of decisions about UCU's approach to next year's pay negotiations and the development of a sustained campaign on pay; see HE news 41: HE news 41, Oct 15 [130kb]

In  HE news 42, published in November 2015 [99kb] we've set out five key facts that shape the context of HE pay as we build towards next year's negotiations, which cover:

  • VC, principal and senior pay
  • pay inequality
  • loss in the value of pay
  • affordability
  • casualisation.

Pay and equality claim 2016

14 January 2016

A special meeting of the Higher Education Committee (HEC) took place on 13 January to agree the next steps in the pay campaign 2016/17.

HEC approved the development of a focused pay claim based on the principles of pay catch up and keep up. HEC also expressed a view that any final offer must ensure that changes to the government's approach to the living wage does not result in distributive bargaining by the employers to reduce the amount on offer to those above the living wage floors.

The claim will be submitted during the first week in February.

A series of regional/devolved nation pay briefings have been arranged for February to enable branches to discuss the wider pay campaign and feedback on any timetables for action. Branches have been asked to make every effort to participate in these briefings so as to inform the decisions of HEC.

National claim 2016/17

8 February 2016

In advance of the UCEA board meeting on Wednesday 10 February 2016, Unite, UCU, GMB and EIS submitted the following key points of the national claim for this year's new JNCHES negotiations.

  • 5% increase to all spine points on the 51 point national pay scale
  • agreed minimum rates of pay for roles within all occupational groups, including to the academic career pathways as detailed in the Model C to the 2004 agreement
  • nationally-agreed minimum rates of pay for external examiners
  • nationally-agreed action for institutions to close the gender pay gap by 2020
  • nationally-agreed action for institutions to reduce the proportion of their staff on casual and zero-hour contracts and to ensure that their pay reflects the rate-for-the-job of permanent staff.

To establish the Scottish sub-committee of new JNCHES as set out under the new JNCHES agreement. The main purpose of the sub-committee would be to deal with matters not currently being dealt with at the new JNCHES committee.

Equal pay

8 March 2016

Action to reduce the gender pay gap is part of this year's salary claim. In the run-up to International Women's Day on 8 March UCU highlighted the inequality facing those working in HE. The battle for fair pay involves everyone not just women and achieving transparent pay and promotion criteria in universities is a UCU priority.

Opening offer

23 March 2016

The national employers representatives at UCEA made their opening offer in response to the joint HE trade union pay claim at the first negotiating meeting on 22 March.

The headlines of the opening offer are:

  • pay - 1% increase to all pay points on the national 51 point scale
  • the potential of further joint work on gender pay
  • the potential of further joint work in regards to casual and zero hours contracts
  • no agreement on external examiner pay rates or minimum rates of pay for each occupational group.
  • no agreement to set up a Scottish subcommittee of negotiating machinery.

The next negotiations take place on 28 April.

Ballot announced

5 April 2016

Following the unacceptable response to our 2016 pay claim UCU will now be balloting HE members for industrial action. Ballot papers will be posted on 14 April. The ballot will close on 4 May 2016.

Offer 'improved'

28 April 2016

UCU and the other unions met the HE employers  to press for a fair pay settlement.  In response to evidence that the real value of salaries has fallen 14.5% since 2009, the employers were only prepared to increase their pay offer from 1% to 1.1%.

Members vote to take action

4 May 2016

UCU members working in higher education have voted in favour of strike action in UK universities in a row over pay.

Almost two thirds (65.4%) of members who voted backed strike action and over three quarters (77.3%) voted for action short of a strike.

The vote follows a marginally improved offer of 1.1% from the employers, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which the union has described as 'insulting'.

UCU's higher education committee (HEC) will meet on Friday 6 May to consider the result. An announcement regarding the next steps of the campaign will be issued on Monday 9 May.

The response to the questions were as follows:

Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of strike action?
Number of ballot papers returned: 21,141
Number voting YES: 13,775 (65.4%)
Number voting NO: 7,292 (34.6%)
Number of papers found to be invalid: 74

Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of action short of a strike?
Number of ballot papers returned: 21,141
Number voting YES: 16,270 (77.3%)
Number voting NO: 4,770 (22.7%)
Number of papers found to be invalid: 101

You can view the full scrutineer's report here [159kb].

Higher education committee agrees programme of action

6 May 2016

HE May 2016 strike day leaflet The higher education committee (HEC) has now agreed the following programme of action aimed at improving the offer from 1.1%:

  • a two day national strike Wednesday 25 and Thursday 26 May.

  • an instruction to members to work to contract with effect from 25 May 2016. Full guidance will be issued on what you should and should not do.

The HEC has also agreed to make preparations for further action aimed at student admissions and at the setting and marking of students' work should the employers not improve their offer.

Finally, outside the action,  the union will also be appealing to all members to resign, giving due notice, from currently held external examiner positions and not to take up new ones until the  dispute is settled.

No progress at talks

20 May 2016

UCU negotiators met with the employers' association, UCEA, this week in the hope of finding a solution to the current dispute amid growing anger over news that vice-chancellor pay rose by 6.1% last year. Regrettably UCEA made no improvement on the 1.1% pay offer to staff or on measures to address gender inequality and insecure contracts and the strike action will continue on 25 & 26 May as planned.

External examiners resign over unfair pay

27 May 2016

More than 1,000 academics have already resigned from their roles as external examiners in universities across the UK, with thousands more expected to join them in coming weeks, the Guardian has reported.

In an escalation of our industrial action over pay, 50 professors have signed a letter to the paper voicing their opposition to what they see as the 'unfairness of the current pay policies of our universities and their impact on staff and their students.'

Next steps in pay dispute

2 June 2016

UCU HE sector conference has agreed the next steps in its dispute. University open days and graduation ceremonies will face disruption over the summer as individual union branches take strike action to coincide with the events. The action includes:

  • disruption targeted at open days and graduation days in the summer
  • an assessment boycott to start in the autumn; and
  • external examiners continue to resign their positions on exam boards.

UCU confirms next steps in university pay dispute

Summer of disruption

June-August 2016

Consultative ballot

14 November 2016

The consultation on the employers' latest offer closed on 11 November and you can see the full results here [27kb].

By a margin of 57% to 43% members voted not to undertake further industrial action at this time.

By a margin of 52% to 48% members voted that the offer provided a sufficient basis for the union to begin 'detailed joint work aimed at tackling the gender pay gap and casualisation'.

This means that UCU is now standing down the current work to contract industrial action as well as our call to external examiners to boycott those duties. It does not mean that UCU accepts the imposed 1.1% pay uplift.

'Over recent years the employers have failed to participate in our negotiating process in good faith, and as a result JNCHES has failed to make any real progress when it comes to making pay fairer and providing secure employment.'Paul Bridge, UCU head of higher education, said in a message to members: 'The above voting margins are relatively close reflecting, in my view, both the uncertain times we are living through and a real scepticism among members about whether the employers at a UK level are serious about their offer of joint work to make pay fairer and jobs more secure.

'The truth is that our scepticism is justified.  Over recent years the employer representatives at the University and College Employers Association (UCEA) have failed to participate in our negotiating process in good faith, and as a result the new joint negotiating committee for higher education staff (JNCHES) has failed to make any real progress when it comes to making pay fairer and providing secure employment.

'In 2016, women are still paid a little over 12% less than men. More than half of all teaching staff plus close to 70% of research staff do not have permanent contracts.  Set against that the employers' offer to jointly examine and report on best practice in the sector, while useful, will not by itself win equal pay or a secure future for one single UCU member.

'So, while we will be entering these national discussions in a positive spirit we will also be taking nationally supported local action to hold every individual employer to account. The Higher Education Committee has decided that nationally backed local claims on gender pay and the reduction of precarious employment should be made with every HE institution.

'Guidance and resources will be provided to your branch as will regional and national support to achieve these twin aims. However, what is most important and decisive is YOUR work to campaign and negotiate in your institution.  We face a real challenge to get your employers to take the issues of fair pay and secure employment seriously, and it could be that in some cases we will need to take industrial action to concentrate your management's mind.

'We must also continue our political campaign to highlight these abuses. As I write more than 31,000 students and staff have used UCU's fair pay calculator to see if their institution pays fairly and offers high levels of job security. This gives us useful ammunition and allies in our campaign.'

JNCHES settlement 2016-17 [226kb]

Last updated: 4 February 2022