Plans by research-led universities to break free of national pay structures and usher in market-led local deals will be opposed with "all possible measures" by the Association of University Teachers.
Two motions reaffirming the AUT's commitment to national pay bargaining were carried at the union's winter council in London this week.
The votes came as an AUT research paper warned that local pay determination would lead to a worse deal for lower-paid staff and worse conditions of employment.
Keele University's successful motion indicated alarm at a discussion paper by general secretary David Triesman on a future system of localised and consortia-based bargaining.
A motion from Queen Mary, University of London, which was defeated, accused Mr Triesman of undermining the national structure.
Figures on pay released this week show that more academic staff are being paid outside the national structures. In the mid-1990s, more than four out of five academics were paid according to national scales, but this has fallen to three in four.
Stephen Court, senior research officer at the AUT, who wrote the report, said: "At the moment, national negotiations go at the pace of those institutions which are least able to afford an increase, so the increase is fixed at the lowest level. Some staff would do better if the national pay system were broken down, but the evidence in my report is that staff are better off on national pay scales."
- The AUT is to develop plans to set up a professional lecturers' accreditation organisation run in competition with the Institute for Learning and Teaching, the winter council agreed this week.
Plans for a boycott of the ILT were defeated by just six votes. The AUT will scrap its policy of active support for it and will "continue to press for improvements".
Details at www.aut.org.uk