University and College Union branches, including the two largest in the UK, are recommending that members reject proposals for the reform of national pay bargaining.
The Open University's UCU branch executive came out unanimously against the reforms last week, and its position was endorsed by an extraordinary general meeting. Last week, the University of Manchester branch did the same.
The proposed reforms, to be put to a vote of UCU members this month, would require the academic union to negotiate pay around a single table with non-academic unions, with a new timetable for talks that some UCU members believe would restrict their ability to take effective industrial action.
Employers have claimed that rejection by the UCU would lead to a collapse of national bargaining.
Roger Walters, OU branch president, said single-table bargaining meant support staff unions would be able to veto UCU pay claims, driving down pay rates. He said the new negotiating and disputes resolution timetable would leave most branches unable to boycott assessment.
Branches at Manchester Metropolitan University, Queen's University Belfast, Goldsmiths, University of London and the universities of Leeds, Sussex, Dundee, Brighton and Swansea have all recommended rejection. The key issue, many say, is the new timetable.
Kingston University's UCU branch is advising members to vote "no", as single-table bargaining may make it "practically impossible" to work toward salary parity with comparable professions.
Sheffield Hallam and Northumbria universities' branches have recommended a "yes" vote. Mike Henderson, UCU committee secretary at Sheffield Hallam, said: "The recommendation is to vote 'yes' in the ballot, primarily because of the risk of the breakdown of national bargaining if the vote is 'no'."
The results of the ballot will be known on 29 February.