Employers make final pay offer for 2022-23

The body that represents universities in collective pay negotiations says all staff will receive a pay rise of at least 3% from August

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (Ucea) has said universities would give staff on the lowest salary bands the highest ever annual pay increase in recognition of the spiralling cost of living. 

A letter sent yesterday (9 May) to the joint union side secretaries, negotiating on behalf of employees, set out a final offer at “the limits of affordability across the sector”. 

Ucea said staff would, from 2022-23, receive a pay increase of 3%, rising to 9% for those on the lowest bands, “the highest uplift for the lowest points ever offered”. 

All staff on salaries currently at £24,871 or below will receive an above 3% increase. The lowest band will increase 9%, from £17,338 to £18,898 in August 2022. The offer would increase the total pay bill for higher education institutions by 3.18%. 

The offer falls far short of what the five joint HE unions claimed was needed. In its joint submission, the trades unions – the Educational Institute of Scotland, GMB, University and College Union (UCU), Unison and Unite – said staff needed a pay increase equivalent to inflation plus 2%. According to the most recent official statistics, the current retail price index is 6.2%.

Recognising how inflation disproportionately affects lower-paid staff, UCEA’s final offer provides significantly higher uplifts for these pay spine points
– Prof Mark E. Smith, Ucea

Ucea negotiated with the five unions in the New Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff, which this year met for three sessions between 30 March and 5 May.

The Ucea final offer includes other commitments to improve working conditions and address inequality. The employer body said it was committed to its final offer, despite a decision by UCU to pursue a marking boycott over the outcomes of the last round of pay negotiations. 

UCU declined to comment when approached by University Business. 

Other Ucea commitments: 

  • Task a group to analyse data on intersectional pay inequalities, to reduce gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps. Encourage universities to adopt recommendations and identify “exemplar” universities to help others
  • New internal routes for staff to raise concerns with their employers about workloads and work-related stress
  • Work to explore how a 35-hour working week has previously worked in some HE institutions
  • The expectation that universities minimise the number of hourly-paid contracts
  • Condense the pay spine from its current 48 points. 

Prof Mark E. Smith, chair of Ucea, said: “Across the three meetings, we have listened very carefully and discussed in detail the many elements of the trade unions’ claim. Following detailed consultations and considered negotiations, we have made a final offer that we recognise will be financially challenging for many of our HE institutions. Clearly, the difficult inflationary costs are a joint concern for employees and employers alike, but recognising how inflation disproportionately affects lower-paid staff, UCEA’s final offer provides significantly higher uplifts for these pay spine points. 

“Employers have looked beyond recent disputes relating to a closed previous round to commit to arriving at the best possible outcome during these testing times. We urge the trade unions to now consult their individual members in carefully considering this detailed final offer. This consultation will allow a possible pay uplift for the start of the 2022-23 academic year while joint working groups can prioritise at the earliest point their work to tackle the other significant components in the offer.”

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