Talks on 3 per cent pay rise offer conclude without agreement

Further strikes now more likely as formal dispute process ends without resolution

July 15, 2022
stacks of coins rising in height showing pay and tuition differentials
Source: iStock

Unions and employers in UK higher education have been unable to reach an agreement on a proposed pay rise offer for university staff, making it more likely that further strikes will disrupt the sector in the new academic year. 

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (Ucea) did not improve on its offer of a 3 per cent rise for most staff at the final dispute resolution meeting on 14 July, leaving the five higher education trade unions considering next steps including potential industrial action. 

The University and College Union (UCU) has already outlined plans to ballot members to take further action in the autumn, having held 13 days of strikes in the 2021/22 academic year. This time the ballot will be aggregated, meaning all universities with union representation could potentially be affected. 

Ucea said it had consulted the 145 employers it represents to see if they could afford further uplifts, given the effects of the cost-of-living crisis that has driven up most household bills.

These consultation responses “confirmed that there was no sector affordability to change the existing pay offer as HE institutions face similar unprecedented financial challenges”, a statement said. 

The final offer included 3 per cent pay rises for those on higher pay – rising to 9 per cent for those in the lowest salary points – and was first tabled in May, representing 3.18 per cent on the sector’s total pay bill. Ucea said it was disappointed that most of the trade unions – including UCU – "had not consulted their members over the pay offer during the considerable period since it was made."

After failing to reach an agreement with the unions, Ucea said its board has decided to move forward with implementing the pay rise for all staff from 1 August, or as soon as possible and backdated to that date.

UCU responded that the offer was “too insulting” to need consulting its members and confirmed preparations for the ballot would now proceed. 

General secretary Jo Grady said that the pay offer was “meagre” and would represent “another devastating real-terms pay cut”, given spiralling inflation. 

“Vice chancellors were given the opportunity to call on Ucea to increase its offer, but they refused, despite acknowledging the cost-of-living crisis has got worse for staff. Employers understand the significance of this decision and have chosen to fuel a sector-wide dispute which will hit universities in the autumn,” she added. 

Raj Jethwa, chief executive of Ucea, said the “extremely difficult inflationary costs are a shared concern for employees and employers alike” and pointed out that his organisation’s offer would most benefit the lowest-paid.

Some employers have decided to offer additional bonuses to staff outside the national negotiating framework, he said, but added: “Many HE institutions are working hard just to avoid redundancies while others are struggling to balance budgets to maintain staffing levels while awarding this pay uplift into staff pockets.”

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles

Reader's comments (5)

Pathetic offer the biggest real wage cut in history 3% pay rise with 10% inflation is a real wage cut of around 7%. Universities need to slash the excess admin and bureuacracy that gobbles up far too much money. Yes we need admin and bureaucrats but not that many, the seniot bureacrats breed like rabbits the number of vice presidents, deputy VCs and associate deans just keeps increasing and increasing while the academics that do all the research and teaching just get more and more work for less and less pay. Excess bureaucracy is a cancer killing off K universities. The Unions need to stop pandering to all these excess administrators as that is the only way academics will get a decent pay packet.
There is a whole layer of middle management and upper management at universities who are earning excessive rents. As the previous comment points out this dead weight of middle/upper management will take UK universities with it. These so called senior leadership teama are responsible for much of the bad governance in some places.
"Some employers have decided to offer additional bonuses to staff ". We all know which staff are going to get those bonuses. Doubt that many academics will qualify.
A pitiful offer as expected. Given how little impact the previous strike action has had I don't believe the threat of more carries any significant threat. The HE sector is also paying much less than market rate for skilled PS jobs leading to an exodus of the most skilled people and recruitment of inexperienced staff bringing further problems. As stated above, far too much money is being spent on middle managers who are just being brought in to further insulate the senior leadership teams from any accountability.
When is a good time to ask for a pay raise? - when inflation is high, it is "not the right time". When inflation is low, it is just "plain greed" and "is not warranted". So people are just expected to live with rubbish pay?