The union opened the ballot earlier this month after the employers offered a 0.3 per cent pay rise for next year – the union had said it wanted 8 per cent – and declined to discuss a redundancy-avoidance agreement.
The ballot was due to close on 22 May, but the UCU said today that it was calling the vote off because of threats of legal action by universities.
The Universities and Colleges Employers Association threatened the action on behalf of institutions that said they had been balloted incorrectly. A total of 78 universities said the union had supplied inaccurate figures on the number of staff being balloted, which would breach the law on trade union ballots.
Pay talks between the parties are due to resume this week.
Sally Hunt, the UCU general secretary, said: “UK legislation unfortunately provides ample opportunity for the unscrupulous employer to try to deny union members the right to vote. Threatening to use the courts as part of a new hardline strategy is not the way to achieve effective industrial relations in the university sector.”
Update, 20 May 2009:
Campus unions have rejected an improved offer from employers of a 0.4 per cent pay rise next year. The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) raised its pay offer from 0.3 per cent at the negotiators’ third meeting this week.
The five higher education unions - EIS, GMB, the University and College Union, UNISON and Unite - said they had rejected “without hesitation the worst offer in the public sector”. In a joint statement the unions also said they had expressed their “extreme frustration” at UCEA’s unwillingness to commit to producing a joint national redundancy avoidance agreement.
UNISON head of higher education, John Richards, said: “We have made a few small steps but not enough for us to feel as if we are making significant progress. Food costs are not dropping and staff still need to pay their bills. The constant threat of jobs or pay does no good for morale.”
A UCEA spokesman said: “This offer remains realistic, responsible and credible under the current circumstances, and against stringent limits of affordability in the sector. The proposals included the offer of joint work to take forward a range of equalities and data issues and pay framework research.”
He added: “UCEA has no mandate for negotiating a national no-redundancy agreement – its prime role is to negotiate pay. Employers reminded unions that many higher education institutions have in place comprehensive agreements and procedures in relation to jobs. These procedures are negotiated with local trade union representatives. Decisions about staffing are always made at institutional level in accordance with the needs and finances of each HEI. UCEA will explore further with its members the kind of responses that they can make in this area.”