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Fair pay, equal pay in HE

HE negotiations 2018-19

27 June 2018

The joint higher education trade union national claim has been agreed by the five HE trade unions - UNISON, Unite, EIS, GMB and UCU - and was submitted to UCEA in March 2018.

The claim, which covers pay, equality, workloads and precarious contracts, is available here.

Key updates

Dispute ends

The Higher Education Committee (HEC) met recently and made a number of decisions in regards to the pay and equality dispute 2018/19 and the development of the joint trade union claim for 2019/20. HEC was unanimous in expressing the unions anger at the failure of the national employers at New JNCHES in their imposing of the rejected below inflation pay increase, and also their failure to make any meaningful offers on closing the gender pay gap, tackling widespread precarious employment and addressing concerning levels of workload, they agreed that UCU should take no further action and conclude the dispute .

Please see this branch action note that provides details of the decisions and in particular the conclusion of the dispute. The latest HE national pay scales can be found here.

The next steps in the developments of the 2019/20 and the dates for the negotiating meetings are advised. Branches will be updated with the developments in the pay negotiations as they progress.

Ballot result

The result of the HE ballot is now available. England, Scotland and Wales saw a turnout of 41% vote in favour of a strike (69.8%) and action short of a strike (80.5%). In Northern Ireland, where the 50% turnout threshold does not apply, the result was 67.6% in favour of a strike and 81.5% for action short of a strike.

It is clear that while large majorities of those who voted supported action, the turnout has fallen disappointingly short of the anti-union legal turnout threshold of 50%. 

While this result shows continuing anger about casualisation, workload and pay inequality among participants it is clear the union needs to reflect on the result and upon the large amount of feedback from branches and members received during the ballot.

The union's negotiators meet on 25 February and will consider the union's approach to the 2019-20 pay round, including how best we can continue to highlight the unfairness inherent within the UK bargaining process in higher education as well as address the decline in the value of members' pay while taking into account the views of members.

A further update will be provided to members following that meeting.

Ballot opens

The higher education national .

Employers notified of intention to ballot

In line with the decisions taken by the special HE sector conference on pay, UCU will now proceed to ballot members in higher education with regards to the 2018/19 national claim dispute. The ballot will open on 15 January and close on 22 February. A copy of the standard 'notice of intention to ballot' letter was sent to higher education institutions (HEIs) on 7 January 2019. A number of briefings for branch officers to be held during January and February is now also being finalised.

Next steps agreed

The Higher Education Committee (HEC) held a special meeting on 23 November to agree next steps in the pay and equality campaign and how best to implement the decisions of the special HE sector conference on pay that took place on 7 November

HEC agreed that the aggregate ballot will open on Tuesday 15 January 2019 and will close on Friday 22 February 2019. HEC also agreed that the same two questions posed in the recent disaggregate ballot will be asked in the new year aggregate ballot; do members support strike action and do members support action short of a strike up to and including a marking boycott. HEC delegated the formulation of the industrial action plan, which will include sustained strike action and ASOS, to the national negotiators who will then consult the UCU national officers. New campaign and get the vote out (GTVO) materials will be developed and distributed to branches before the ballot opens and branches will be encouraged and enabled to share their GTVO plans. HEC also agreed that UCU equality structures will be consulted on the campaign materials.

A series of national and regional briefings will be organised and will start before the ballot opens and run through the ballot period. The briefings will cover maximising GTVO and sharing best practice, local campaigns on gender, precarious contracts and workload, the industrial action plan and the joint national negotiating committee (JNCHES) agreement. HEC agrees to delegate to the HEC officers the exact timing and locations of the meetings and other arrangements.

Finally, HEC also agreed to investigating how to implement Motion 8 on expanding the National Dispute Committee to include post-92 branch representation; and how the expanded post-92 NDC can take forward the pay and equality dispute; and that UCU will participate in talks with the other HE unions on both the 2019/20 claim and UCU plans for the current dispute. In addition UCU should work where possible with other unions also in dispute on the 2018/19 claim.

Conference decides to hold fresh ballot

At a special sector conference on pay delegates agreed to re-ballot higher education members for industrial action on the union's claim following the recent result of the first ballot. Conference decided that the new ballot would involve all branches but this time on an aggregate basis (all results counted together) and this would take place in the new year and no later than March 2019.

Decision to be made on re-ballot

The union's higher education committee (HEC) met to consider the ballot results on 2 November. There was no conclusive agreement at HEC on whether members should be re-balloted over this year's pay claim and this issue will now be considered by a on Wednesday 7 November.

Ballot results announced

The results of the ballot are now available here.

Despite the enormous efforts made by branches and UCU staff very few institutions achieved the 50% turnout required by the law before industrial action is possible.

Matt Waddup, UCU national head of policy and campaigns, said 'It is very frustrating that while overall the turnout is the highest we have seen in UCU for a national pay ballot in this sector, this is not enough to take action in the vast majority of institutions.

'While we all know the law is unfair, we also know that without a high turnout we cannot turn the anger about the treatment of staff into tangible action so I would like to thank those of you who voted and who worked to increase the turnout for your support.'

The results will now be considered by the Higher Education Committee.

Until such time as advised please note that our current dispute remains on.

Strike ballot opens

UCU members in 147 UK universities* are now being balloted for strike action in a row over pay. The ballot opened on Thursday 30 August and closes on Friday 19 October. The law says UCU needs at least a 50% turnout in ballots to take action, so members are urged to vote early if they think education staff deserve a decent pay deal. 

Ballot notice served

The statutory notice of intention to ballot has now been served on employers in respect of the 2018/19 national pay dispute. The ballot will open on 30 August.

Trade dispute declared

Following members' overwhelming rejection of the UCEA final offer, on 17 and 23 July UCU participated in dispute resolution talks with UCEA and the other HE trade unions. During the meetings UCU negotiators pressed the employer's side to improve their offer on pay, gender pay, precarious contracts and workloads, all of which are core UCU policy objectives and headline elements of the campaign.

It is very disappointing to report that the employers failed to sufficiently improve their offer.

In line with the decisions taken by the Higher Education Committee (HEC), UCU has now written to the heads of institutions we believe are part of the JNCHES national bargaining arrangements˚ lodging a trade dispute with each institution and setting out the steps they should take to resolve the dispute.

It is highly likely that UCU will now proceed to a statutory ballot of members over pay this autumn. Exact dates are to be finalised and branches and members will be advised in advance of the opening of the ballot.

Industrial action ballot announced

Following the recent consultation on pay where HE members clearly rejected the employers' pay offer of 2%, the union's higher education committee has decided to call a dispute and ballot members on industrial action. The ballot will open towards the end of August and run to mid-October. We're calling for an improved pay offer and progress to address inequality and precarious employment across the sector.

Please help promote the campaign in your workplace with our posters and leaflets and make sure your personal and address details are up to date now so you receive your ballot papers safely in August. 

Higher education pay and equality consultation result

In a consultative ballot members in HE have voted to reject the employers' final below inflation pay offer of 2%, and have resoundingly indicated their support for industrial action in the latest campaign for pay and equality in higher education. 82% of members responding to the consultation voted to reject the offer and 65% said they were prepared to take industrial action in defence of their pay. The turnout was 47.7%.

The next step in the campaign is a comprehensive get out the vote campaign for a national strike ballot to open in August and close in October.

UCU to ballot higher education staff for industrial action over pay

Fair pay, equal pay: higher education consultative eballot

In higher education the only aspect of salaries that is getting bigger is the gender pay gap. The employers' latest pay offer of 2% does nothing to restore ground lost against inflation (a real terms cut of 21% since 2010) or to address gender inequality or precarious employment in the sector. However, as reported in the news this week, it is clear that the excessive pay and perks of vice chancellors (VCs) and principals persists and the latest voluntary code is inadequate.

Please support UCU's campaign by voting in the UCU pay and equality consultation which opened this week.

HE members will have received an email earlier this week containing a unique link to vote. If you need to request a replacement, please use this link. 

Ballot opens

Make sure you vote in the higher education pay ballot. Eligible members working in HE should have received an email 'UCU pay and equality consultation'.

UCU recommends that you vote to reject the offer for the following reasons:

  • 2% is well below the current rate of inflation which, as measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI), is currently 3.4%
  • 2% does nothing to restore ground lost against inflation since 2010 which UCU estimates to be 21% when pay settlements are cumulatively compared to rises in RPI
  • 2% reflects a continuing de-prioritisation of staff pay; while the proportion of university expenditure spent on staff has fallen to just 54.7%, reserves held by institutions have increased by 259% and capital expenditure by 34.9%.

In addition to their below inflation pay offer the employers have also made no meaningful proposals to address either the continuing casualisation of the HE workforce or gender pay inequality.

Ballot called

Higher Education Sector Conference 2018 resolved to ballot members for industrial action and to work jointly with the other trade unions and to call a Higher Education Sector Conference in the autumn on HE pay.

Final offer

At the third and final negotiating meeting, held on 10 May 2018, the employers made a final composite offer and response on all elements of the joint trade union claim, including:

  • Pay: 2% increase for staff on spine point 16 and above. £425 for staff on spine point 15 and below.
    The pay offer falls disappointing short of the pay claim and pay continues to erode and fall behind comparable professions. The offer does not keep up with inflation or address the loss in pay over the last 10 years. It is in the bottom quartile of recent public sector settlements
  • Pay related matters: the offer on gender pay is that the current working group will continue and look at developing a survey and review action plans.
    Overall the offer ensures that gender pay is a priority JNCHES matters however it does little to immediately address the gender gap in HE
  • Precarious contracts: the offer is for limited work in regards to fixed term contracts and variable hour's contracts with a focus on data analysis.
    It falls way short of the action needed to urgently address wide spread precarious employment and improve security for the most vulnerable staff in the sector
  • Workload: the offer does not involve action to deal with excessive workloads or compensate members for the excessive hours worked. It does not recognise the decline in the rate for the job
  • Scottish JNCHES sub-committee: UCEA are not supportive of progressing the development of a Scottish sub-committee.

You can read the full offer in the national negotiators' report to the annual HE sector conference 2018.

Opening offer

At the second meeting on 13 April, UCEA made an opening offer which is summarised below:

  • Pay - an increase to all spine points of 1.7% or £350 whichever is the greater.
  • Gender pay - some qualified further joint work (to be developed) on gender pay, building on the new work stream developed by the gender pay group established as result of last year's settlement.
  • Workload and excessive hours - UCEA rejected a monetary payment in recognition of the excessive hours worked. Hours of work are a locally determined matter but UCEA will consider how they may be able to comment further in this regard.
  • Precarious work - UCEA do not wish to progress a UK level action plan to tackle the wide spread use of exploitative contracts. UCEA have indicated a willingness to consider some work in regards to the most insecure contracts.
  • Scottish JNCHES - UCEA are not supportive of establishing such a fora. The trade union side has agreed to respond in detail before the final meeting.

The UCU negotiators' view is that this is a disappointing offer that falls short of even keeping the value of pay in line with the increases to the cost of living and does not address the serious and wide spread issues of pay inequality, workload and precarious employment in the sector.

First negotiating meeting

On 26 March the first of the three scheduled negotiations took place. The trade unions side presented our claim and the employer's representatives at UCEA gave a response. UCEA confirmed they have a mandate to negotiate and will respond in detail to the unions claim, however it is disappointing to note that no opening offer was made.

˚List of participating employers 2018

University of Aberdeen
Abertay University
Aberystwyth University
Anglia Ruskin University
University of the Arts London
Arts University Bournemouth
Aston University
Bangor University
University of Bath
Bath Spa University
University of Bedfordshire
Birkbeck, University of London
University of Birmingham*
Bishop Grosseteste University
University of Bolton
Bournemouth University
University of Bradford
University of Brighton
University of Bristol
Brunel University London
Buckinghamshire New University
University of Cambridge
Canterbury Christ Church University
Cardiff Metropolitan University
Cardiff University
University of Central Lancashire
University of Chester
University of Chichester
City, University of London
Courtauld Institute of Art
Coventry University
University of Cumbria
De Montfort University
University of Derby*
University of Dundee
Durham University
University of East Anglia
University of East London
Edge Hill University
University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh Napier University
University of Essex
University of Exeter
Falmouth University
University of Glasgow
Glasgow Caledonian University
Glasgow School of Art
University of Gloucestershire
Glyndŵr University
Goldsmiths, University of London
University of Greenwich
Harper Adams University
Heriot-Watt University
University of Hertfordshire
University of Huddersfield
University of Hull
Keele University*
University of Kent
King's College London
Kingston University London
Lancaster University
University of Leeds
Leeds Beckett University
Leeds Arts University
Leeds Trinity University
University of Leicester
University of Lincoln
University of Liverpool
Liverpool Hope University
Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
Liverpool John Moores University
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
London Metropolitan University
London School of Economics & Political Science
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
London South Bank University
University of London (Senate)
Loughborough University
University of Manchester
Manchester Metropolitan University
Middlesex University
Newcastle University
Newman University
University of Northampton
Northumbria University
Norwich University of the Arts
University of Nottingham*
Nottingham Trent University
Open University
University of Oxford
Oxford Brookes University
Plymouth University
University of Portsmouth
Queen Margaret University
Queen Mary University of London
Queen's University Belfast
University of Reading
Robert Gordon University
University of Roehampton
Rose Bruford College
Royal Academy of Music
Royal Agricultural University
The Royal Central School of Speech & Drama
Royal College of Art
Royal College of Music
Royal Holloway, University of London
Royal Northern College of Music
Royal Veterinary College
University of Salford
University of Sheffield
Sheffield Hallam University
SOAS, University of London
University of Southampton
Southampton Solent University
University of South Wales
University of St Andrews
St George's University of London
St Mary's University College, Belfast
St Mary's University, Twickenham
Staffordshire University
University of Stirling
University of St Mark & St John
Stranmillis University College
University of Strathclyde
University of Suffolk
University of Sunderland
University of Surrey
University of Sussex
Swansea University
Teesside University
Trinity Laban
Ulster University
University College Birmingham
University College London
University for the Creative Arts
University of Wales - Registry
University of Wales Trinity Saint David
University of Warwick
University of West London
University of the West of England, Bristol
University of the West of Scotland
University of Westminster
University of Winchester
University of Wolverhampton
University of Worcester
University of York
York St John University

* As per previous years, these HEIs do not participate for all staff groups

Last updated: 26 July 2021