The first salvo in the next round of university pay negotiations has been fired by Unite, as the union formally rejected employers’ 0.5 per cent pay offer.
Unite is the first campus union to formally respond to the 2009-10 offer, which was made by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (Ucea) last month.
Mike Robinson, Unite national officer for education, says in a letter to Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of Ucea, on 14 August that a consultation with members had resulted in “a massive rejection of the Ucea offer of a 0.5 per cent uplift in salary scales applicable from 1 August and overwhelming opposition to the refusal of Ucea to sign up to a formal job security/redundancy avoidance agreement, as submitted by the joint unions”.
The Ucea offer was fractionally higher than the 0.4 per cent put on the table earlier this year, but a long way short of the 8 per cent minimum demanded by the University and College Union in 2008.
Mr Robinson says the campus unions had presented a “very detailed claim” to Ucea in April, which sought changes to pay scales and on-call payments. But many of the claim’s items have been rejected by Ucea, which said it had no remit to negotiate them.
“Any bargaining process is by necessity a two-way street,” Mr Robinson writes.
“The refusal of Ucea subscribers to properly allow Ucea to negotiate has in my view led to Ucea appearing hamstrung and has seriously weakened the relationship with Unite and possibly other unions.
“I do not believe your subscribers understand the damage they are doing to collective bargaining within the sector by refusing Ucea a remit to negotiate.”
He adds: “Clearly, following the rejection of the Ucea offer by Unite members, there is now a serious dispute between Unite and Ucea.”
The new Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff agreement says that if a dispute is declared, the parties must meet within seven days to seek a resolution.
Unite has therefore asked Ucea to meet with its negotiators within a week.
Ms Prudence said: “We are, of course, disappointed that Unite has reached this decision, and that such an important conclusion has been made during such a short… consultation.
“Rejecting a realistic and credible pay offer so quickly is puzzling when economic circumstances in the sector and beyond are clearly getting more challenging. Employers will meet Unite under the JNCHES dispute-resolution procedure as requested.”
The other campus unions are still consulting on the 0.5 per cent offer. The UCU is not expected to conclude its consultation until after the start of the next academic year.