In a joint statement released on 21 February, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association and the University and College Union said they had agreed in principle to start new talks ahead of pay negotiations for 2014-15.
A 1 per cent pay offer for 2013-14 has sparked ongiong strikes by the UCU.
The new talks will take place in conjunction with the other trade unions involved in higher education: Unison, Unite, the GMB and the EIS – which form the New Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES), which negotiates pay with Ucea.
It follows the breakdown of talks between the two sides, with Ucea refusing to restart pay negotiations and advising universities to impose its 1 per cent final offer without UCU’s agreement.
The joint statement said: “Ucea and UCU have agreed to investigate with the other parties to New JNCHES the prospect of arranging exploratory talks, involving all New JNCHES unions, prior to the first scheduled negotiating meeting of the 2014-15 pay negotiations. The purpose of 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.”
Unions say they have been forced to take action because five successive below-inflation pay rises have led to a 13 per cent cut in their salaries in real terms since 2009.
On 17 February, the UCU announced its members will refuse to mark essay or exam scripts from 28 April unless an improved deal is agreed – an action which follows six walkouts by UCU members since October.
Negotiations for the 2014-15 pay round are set to start on 26 March, though universities were told to “hold down pay increases generally” in this year’s annual grant letter from the government, which was published on 10 February.