The UK’s biggest higher education union has warned universities to expect “serious disruption” as it announces strike ballots over pay and pensions.
The higher education committee of the University and College Union, which has more than 120,000 members across the UK, met on 28 June and agreed that the ballots will run from 9 September to 30 October.
The final 2019-20 pay offer made by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, which represents 146 higher education institutions, was a 1.8 per cent minimum rise. This rises to 3.65 per cent for the lowest paid.
This fell well short of UCU’s demand for an increase that was equivalent to inflation as measured by the retail price index – currently 2.4 per cent – plus 3 per cent, or £3,349 – whichever is greater.
“Pay has been held down for too long and USS members are running out of patience,” said Paul Bridge, UCU’s head of higher education.
The pensions dispute over the Universities Superannuation Scheme was the subject of a 14-day strike last year.
Employee and employer contributions are set to rise to 10.4 per cent and 22.5 per cent respectively in October, before another hike next April.
“Every day seems to bring some new damning revelation about USS. Their response has been wholly inadequate, as has that of Universities UK,” added Mr Bridge.
“If universities are not prepared to work with us on pay and pensions, then they will face serious disruption later this year.”
Members in about 140 universities will be balloted over pay and in 69 institutions will be balloted over USS pensions.
The ballots will be disaggregated so each institution will be polled separately.
A UCU ballot over strike action on pay in 2018-19 fell short of the required 50 per cent threshold required for industrial action.
A UUK spokesman said: “While employers are keen to avoid a further damaging dispute, it is clear that a ‘No detriment’ solution where employers and members refuse to pay additional contributions will not be acceptable to the USS trustee or The Pensions Regulator.
“We continue to seek a conclusion to the valuation that all stakeholders can support.”
A Ucea spokesman said it was “very conscious that the final offer is already pitched at the very limit of what is sustainable” for employers with “real financial pressures being felt and continuing uncertainty over funding and Brexit”.