UCU rejects universities’ final pay offer

UCU rejects universities’ final pay offer

The UK’s largest higher education union has rejected universities’ final pay offer, sparking a series of dispute resolution meetings.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (Ucea) had proposed a rise of at least 2.5%, rising to 5.7% for the lowest paid, but only £900 would be paid in August, with the remainder to follow in March 2025.

But the University and College Union’s (UCU) higher education committee voted to reject the offer and seek improvement through dispute resolution meetings, according to general secretary Jo Grady.

Dr Grady said negotiators “have already moved employers significantly” and “it may be possible to avoid triggering a formal trade dispute”.

But a question mark hangs over whether UCU members will ultimately back industrial action, with the long-running strike ending last year after just 43 per cent of members voted, missing the 50 per cent minimum turnout required.

In a poll of UCU branches, 51% of delegates said they would vote against the offer. Forty-five per cent of those surveyed said they would be prepared to take industrial action to secure a better deal, with 26% saying no and 29% abstaining.

“The ball is now in the employers’ court to make further improvements. The resolution process should move quickly and we expect to be able to update you within a few weeks,” Dr. Grady told union members.

Unison, which represents some of the UK’s university staff, also reacted negatively to Ucea’s offer.

However, Ucea had warned that July 8 was the deadline to reach an agreement that would guarantee the implementation of an increase in August. Negotiations have been complicated by the financial situation of many institutions.

Ucea also warned that without an agreement on wages it would not be possible to advance other measures, including the review of the wage structure and joint work on types of contracts, workload and wage gaps.

Raj Jethwa, the employers’ group’s chief executive, called the unions’ decisions “deeply disappointing”.

“Despite the ever-increasing financial challenges facing our higher education institutions, a realistic but fair pay offer has been secured, alongside progress in many other important areas identified by unions,” he said.

“I fear that the union committees will not seize the opportunity offered by the Ucea global offer. After months and months of detailed negotiations, the triggering of a dispute resolution process will only make it more difficult for staff to receive their August salary increase.

“They are also preventing any meaningful joint progress on pay gaps, workload and contract types, as well as on the revision of the pay structure. I remind the unions that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

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