A trade union has declined to take part in potential “exploratory talks” with universities ahead of 2014-15 pay negotiations because employers will not discuss this year’s pay dispute.
One of the five unions involved in higher education – EIS, which represents staff in Scottish universities and colleges – says it will not join other unions in preliminary talks with employers because “the remit of the proposed talks were too narrow”.
In a letter sent to members on 26 February, EIS national officer for further and higher education David Belsey says the talks would be unhelpful as there was to be no consideration of improving this year’s 1 per cent pay offer.
“The employers were clear that the exploratory talks would only cover preparations for the next pay claim, i.e. 2014-15 and would not cover the pay dispute which is based on the 2013-14 pay claim,” Mr Belsey writes.
“It has since become clear that the exploratory talks will also not cover the pay uplift for the 2014-15 negotiations – because the employers will not yet have completed their process in deciding what their pay offer will be,” he adds.
Out of the five unions involved in UK higher education, EIS has the fewest members in higher education and voted narrowly in favour of strike action in concert with the University and College Union, Unite and Unison.
The announcement of possible exploratory talks between unions and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association ahead of formal negotiations for 2014-15 pay, due to start on 26 March, had been viewed as a breakthrough that might lead to the resolution of an industrial dispute over this year’s pay offer.
Members of University and College Union are currently due to start a marking boycott on 28 April unless an improved deal is agreed – a move that follows a series of strikes over the past five months.
A joint statement by Ucea and UCU said the “exploratory talks would be to seek an early positive dialogue on the key issues in the lead up to the 2014-15 pay round”, but the EIS suggests pay will not be discussed.
The EIS snub follows a decision by its University Lecturers’ Association executive last month that said the proposed exploratory talks had “unacceptable pre-conditions”.
However, it will join other unions in the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES) process which begins with its first full meeting on 26 March, when employers will make their first pay offer for 2014-15.