The Association of University Teachers was expected to formally sign up for the biggest shake-up of academic careers for 40 years as The Times Higher went to press this week.
As a three-week ballot of the AUT's membership closed, the union's leadership was hopeful it would receive a strong endorsement of a new framework agreement for the modernisation of pay, which includes an average two-year pay rise of 6.4 per cent.
The reforms will unite all staff, from porters to professors in old and new universities, under a new single pay spine. The new system will put staff through controversial formal evaluations of their roles and responsibilities to determine their pay levels.
The new system will also allow unprecedented variations in staff pay as market forces are allowed to operate in regard to jobs.
Vice-chancellors will be able to vary the national pay levels to meet local needs, and the system introduces market-based pay supplements for shortage subjects and more performance-related "contribution" pay points.
The union had rejected the original offer made last July. It held a week of strike action in February and boycotted exams and assessments in March.
It said that the original deal would increase the number of annual pay increments academics had to climb to reach the top of their pay grade, losing them thousands in career earnings.
It was also concerned that while national pay negotiations would be maintained for academics, the union's academic-related members such as librarians and registrars, would be left to negotiate pay locally.
A new deal, brokered by the Trades Union Congress, was accepted by the AUT's annual council last month. It provides a "no detriment" clause to protect staff from pay cuts and gives some protection against ad hoc local pay determination for academic-related staff.
In a circular to local AUT associations before the ballot closed this week, AUT assistant general secretary Matt Waddup said: "The employers' proposals represent, in the opinion of your national executive and of AUT council, the best settlement possible. They represent major gains, but they are not the end of the road. We'll have to work hard to ensure that the national principles are implemented properly everywhere where we are recognised.
"Whichever way the ballot goes, we'll need to continue the work of the past few months. Yes, let's engage in healthy debate about what the future holds - but at all times we must remember that our most powerful weapon against the employers is solidarity and unity."