‘Urgent negotiations’ on pay after ‘constructive discussions’

‘Real possibility that we can set aside differences’, say employers, after talks with unions that followed three days of strike action

December 2, 2022
UCU rally in London
Source: Tom Williams

Unions and employers have agreed to “urgent negotiations” in a bid to settle the UK higher education pay dispute.

In a statement issued after three days of strike action across 150 campuses, the University and College Union said the talks – due to take place between now and the end of January – would seek to resolve “both the 2022-23 pay round, on which the current dispute is based, and the 2023-24 pay round”.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association said there was a “real possibility that we can set aside differences”. The organisation has agreed to bring forward negotiations on the 2023-24 pay round.

“The overriding priority is to provide a space which will allow negotiations to take place in order to facilitate an early settlement of the 2023-24 pay round, including the possibility of a consolidated interim payment to provide support to staff with cost-of-living pressures,” a Ucea spokesman said.

About 70,000 UCU members were called out on strike over Ucea’s imposition of a 3 per cent rise for 2022-23, rising to 9 per cent for the lowest paid. They were joined on the picket lines by members of the Unison union.

Unions have called for a rise that keeps pace with inflation, which is currently running at about 11 per cent.

The UCU and Unison will be joined by three other unions – Unite, GMB and the Educational Institute of Scotland – in the negotiations, a UCU spokesman said following a meeting with Ucea.

“There were constructive discussions about developing a way forward to settle the unions’ dispute over low pay and poor working conditions in the sector,” the spokesman said.

“Both sides agreed to enter into urgent negotiations between now and 31 January 2023 with a view to resolving both the 2022-23 pay round, on which the current dispute is based, and the 2023-24 pay round.

“The focus of all UCU members and branches should be on continuing to build support for UCU’s campaign in order to apply pressure during negotiations, and maximise support for strike action should the union need to call it.

“UCU will update members on the progress of the negotiations as regularly as possible.”

Raj Jethwa, Ucea’s chief executive, said universities “fully recognise the inflationary pressures currently facing staff”.

“Ucea has been clear that, with many HE institutions having very tight budgets, we are unable to reopen the 2022-23 pay round. However, there is a real possibility that we can set aside differences to bring forward the 2023-24 pay negotiations in a bid to address the cost-of-living pressures facing staff,” he said.

“This is an unprecedented approach by employers and follows in-depth discussions with Ucea’s members across September and October in response to the inflationary pressures on staff and HEIs alike.”

The UCU remains in a separate dispute with employers over cuts to pensions provided by the Universities Superannuation Scheme.


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