UCU reject employers’ 1.5% pay increase offer for next year

The union that represents 140,000 HE employees said the deal from the organisation that represents university employers was “unacceptable”.

The University and College Union (UCU) has rejected a 1.5% pay rise in 2021/22 from employers, which it described as “unacceptable” after a pay freeze during the pandemic.

The University and College Employers Association (UCEA), which represents universities in negotiations with trade unions over pay and working conditions, said it had offered a “fair and sustainable final pay offer”. The offer included a base rate increase of 1.5%, with higher percentage uplifts “to the pay points below Spine Point 22, up to a maximum of 3.6%”. UCU does not represent any staff below these pay grades, however.

“This final offer is a significant improvement upon the employers’ opening offer, having moved twice over the course of this negotiating round,” UCEA said in a statement. “The offer also is significantly above inflation (CPIH 1.0%, March 2021), demonstrating the investment the sector continues to make in its highly-valued staff.”

“Around half the staff covered by the negotiations are also eligible for additional progression pay increases,” the organisation added.

In response, UCU issued a tweet that read: “After this year’s pay freeze, the efforts you made to support students this year & the risks which employers have forced you to take during Covid this is unacceptable.”

“On pay, the employers opening offer failed to meet any of the union’s key demands; keep up and catch-up, RPI inflation, a pay rise for all and progress on poverty pay,” UCU concluded. A proposition on equality, workloads and casualisation, not covered by the pay offer, is expected from UCEA this week.

This is an offer that some of our HE institutions will find financially challenging, but all employers are consistent in their commitment to arrive at a pay outcome that is decent and sustainable
– Prof Mark E. Smith, UCEA

UCU, in partnership with the other HE unions, Unison, GMB, Unite and the Educational Institute of Scotland, had called for a £2,500 pay for all staff – which would equate to increases of between 15.7% and 4%. UCEA said the unions had “expressed a willingness to negotiate”, but ultimately were unable to reach an agreement with the employer negotiators.

Prof Mark E. Smith, chair of UCEA and vice-chancellor of the University of Southampton, said: “We recognise the tremendous contribution made by staff across all HEIs through the pandemic. This, the last of our three meetings, was once again a constructive and considered negotiation.

“This is an offer that some of our HE institutions will find financially challenging, but all employers are consistent in their commitment to arrive at a pay outcome that is decent and sustainable. We held detailed discussions and responded to relevant elements of the trade unions’ claim, constructively exploring these within a context of increasing costs, uncertainty and significant financial constraint. We ask that the trade unions will allow their members to carefully consider this offer.”

Raj Jethwa, chief executive of UCEA, added: “Our offer provides a substantial boost to the lowest points of the pay spine, while ensuring all members of staff receive an above inflation increase. This is an offer which is fair and sustainable.”

Read more: University of Liverpool to face three weeks of strike action

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