Staff at the University of Glamorgan are threatening industrial action in a dispute over the implementation of the national agreement on pay and progression.
The University and College Union has agreed to ballot for strike action if a settlement is not reached by the end of January.
The lecturers' union says that a local version of the national pay framework is being imposed on them, meaning that 282 staff will lose a pay increment, their automatic length of service award.
The union is in dispute with the university over what was agreed during negotiations. Glamorgan's local version of the framework agreement provides for incremental pay progression to occur from 1 August 2008, but the lecturers' existing national contract provides for a pay increment in September 2007.
By the time a deal was struck on the framework, the September increment had already been paid to staff, and the university said that staff would have to repay it.
After protests from the UCU, vice-chancellor David Halton agreed to pay the value of the increment as a one-off compensatory payment. However, in August 2008, staff would be paid at 2007 incremental levels, setting their career earnings back a year.
"I can go no further than this, as to do so would breach the agreement reached," he said in a memo to staff. He added: "There has been a serious misunderstanding between management and UCU negotiators on this matter. UCU believed that the 1 September 2007 increments would be payable. This misunderstanding is very unfortunate and has clearly upset many people."
Margaret Phelan, UCU regional officer, said that, because the university had a £2.2 million surplus - more than it budgeted for, as a result of delaying implementation of the framework - it should be able to afford to pay the increment.