Scotland's two main academic unions have joined forces to repel a threat to national pay scales, despite being bound by separate negotiations.
The Association of University Teachers Scotland and the Educational Institute of Scotland are lobbying the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals (COSHEP) to promote their case.
The unions are alarmed by a proposal by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association to scrap annual pay increments and introduce local salary scales.
They have warned that this would destroy staff morale and open up countless well-founded grievances claiming discrimination against women and ethnic minorities.
Eight traditional universities are association members. The other 13 higher education institutions seemed poised to join as well a year ago but are now awaiting the outcome of the association's latest consultation paper.
The unions say that COSHEP, representing both association members and non-members, is "particularly well-placed to seek and promote an approach more in keeping with recognition of the professionalism of university staff and with good industrial relations".
The former centrally-funded colleges are in limbo. Management withdrew from traditional negotiating procedures last year claiming they were too rigid, but retained national bargaining.
Initial enthusiasm for the association among some institutions appears to be waning amid the debate on how it will operate. This may rekindle interest in a Scottish negotiating body.
Jack Dale, further and higher education secretary of the EIS, which represents staff in the former centrally-funded institutions, said: "We think that national bargaining for all institutions in the United Kingdom will be extremely cumbersome and a single bargaining structure for Scottish higher education is more efficient."
Brian Fraser, industrial relations adviser to the conference of Scottish centrally-funded colleges, said: "We have taken a decision in principle that we are interested in joining the UCEA, but only if the organisational thrust and subscription level are acceptable to us. We are keeping our options open."