We are writing to encourage all University and College Union members to consider carefully the reasons underpinning the union's calls for a dispute. We realise that, in comparison with the exceptional pay awards under the 2006-09 pay agreement that included an 8 per cent increase in 2008, the current 0.3 per cent offer from employers is modest. But all our higher education institutions, having analysed what is affordable, believe that the offer is realistic and responsible in the current climate. Acceptance of the UCU's pay claim would inevitably mean job losses. The UCU's 8 per cent pay claim is a genuine threat to job security.
The UCU is attempting to publicise this ballot as one based on "job protection", regardless of the lack of evidence to support its claims. Any good employer would seek to minimise job losses within the constraints of the substantial financial challenges institutions face. We take our responsibilities as good employers very seriously. Decisions on employment and job security can be taken only at the level of individual institutions, where unions would always be involved in such discussions.
National guarantees of job security are outside the remit of any employers' association, and trying to enforce such a guarantee through a national ballot for a dispute is misguided. Financial sustainability is the key to job security - the UCU's pay claim would considerably increase the risks of a reduction in posts.
Industrial action will harm students, staff and the reputation of the UK sector. It should always be the absolute last resort. We urge UCU members to use their votes to resist industrial action and the UCU to remain with employers and the other higher education unions around the national negotiating table to seek resolution through dialogue.
David Baker, principal, University College Plymouth St Mark and St John, and chair, GuildHE
John Craven, vice-chancellor, University of Portsmouth, and chair, University Alliance
Les Ebdon, vice-chancellor, University of Bedfordshire, and chair, Million+
Malcolm Grant, president and provost, University College London, and chair, Russell Group
Steve Smith, vice-chancellor, University of Exeter, and chair, 1994 Group
Rick Trainor, principal, King's College London, and president, Universities UK.