Natfhe is claiming a salary rise of at least 3.3 per cent for its members in higher education, along with commitment to a common pay review with old universities.
The union's annual pay claim also seeks a minimum starting salary of Pounds 15,000 for teaching staff, compared to the current Pounds 12,756. Its sector conference has endorsed industrial action if "an acceptable offer" has not been made by September.
The Universities and Colleges Employers Association proposals for changing the structure of pay negotiations also came under attack. UCEA options include an end to national bargaining on some conditions of service as well as some steps towards union de-recognition.
"They see these proposals as a really fundamental threat and made it clear that if the UCEA is not prepared to shift its position we would consult on industrial action," said Liz Allen, Natfhe's higher education secretary.
The Association of University Teachers stopped short of calling for industrial action at its conference a week earlier, believing vice chancellors would reject change. As part of the annual pay claim, Natfhe also wants a joint working party with the employers to clarify and improve the "indefensible poor pay and treatment" of research staff in new universities and colleges. The claim document says: "This year the claim for academic and related staff in the new universities and colleges focuses on the need for a fair and equal reward.
"We support attempts by employers to increase government higher education funding. The union is seeking a percentage increase substantially above the rate of inflation which is currently running at 3.3 per cent."
Natfhe is also seeking: improved parental leave, with the right for up to a year off after birth or adoption; increased numbers of principal lecturers in line with old universities; an incremental pay scale for senior academic staff; guidelines and monitoring on initial placement in scales.