Since the damaging 2006 pay dispute, higher education employers have reflected long and hard and have pursued an agenda of reform to provide a framework for the continuation into the 21st century of national negotiations that treat all staff equitably and enable proper financial planning.
Employers cannot sensibly begin pay negotiations until they know what funding they have - this is why the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (Ucea) cannot yet respond to the University and College Union's claim for 8 per cent, submitted in December 2008. Higher education institutions do not know what can be afforded and will not know until they get funding allocations in early March 2009. Negotiations are set to begin on 30 March.
It is disingenuous of the UCU to say in Times Higher Education that it is yet again being "forced" into industrial action and that employers have "refused" talks ("We don't want a return to disputes, so join us at the negotiating table", 15 January).
We spent many months in 2007 reaching an agreement on new national negotiating arrangements with all parties, but this was subsequently not delivered by the UCU. We would urge all readers to examine the facts - a full chronology of events and all correspondence from all parties (the UCU, employers and other unions) are now available on the Ucea website.
If national bargaining is to continue, we must have a mature, modern approach to negotiations - industrial action must always be an absolute last resort. Students in higher education deserve nothing less.
Jocelyn Prudence, Chief executive, Universities and Colleges Employers Association.