Delegates at the union’s annual congress in Brighton voted on 29 May to consult members over the final 2013-14 pay offer made by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association last week, recommending they should reject the proposed deal.
Potential industrial action could be averted if universities and unions can reach a settlement in June when other trade unions in higher education – Unite, Unison, GMB and EIS – will decide whether to accept the final offer or not.
If no agreement is reached, a two-month consultation of UCU members will begin on 1 July, when branches will also be asked whether they are willing to undertake action short of a strike, such as working to contract.
If the pay offer is rejected, that could lead to an industrial action ballot in September, with action set to start in the autumn term of 2013-14.
Delegates at Brighton also passed motions saying “all forms of action should be considered in defence of jobs, pay, conditions and quality and breadth of higher education provision”, adding that “national one-day strikes” and “rolling regional strikes” could play their part in any further industrial action.
The conference, which runs from 29 May to 31 May, also passed motions condemning the exploitation of staff on zero-hours contracts, the use of the National Student Survey to “control” staff and criticised the “creeping privatisation” taking place on university campuses.
It also voted in favour of the “green” option in the Finch Report, in which academics could self-archive their articles in an open-access repository for general use after a set period, over the “gold” option, where institutions pay to publish in open access journals.
Discussions on the future of the UCU’s national executive and plans to cuts the union’s annual budget by £2 million a year will take place on the afternoon of 30 May in a closed session.