Strike action in higher education
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Four fights, one voice (with logo)

HE national negotiations 2019-20

Four fights, one voice

The higher education (HE) joint trade union claim 2019/20 has been agreed by the five HE unions - EIS, GMB, Unison, Unite and UCU and was submitted to Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) on 19 March 2019. It can be found here. The claim covers the key UCU policy issues on pay, gender pay, precarious contracts and workloads.

Given the employers' subsequent refusal to discuss long-term solutions to the ongoing issues covered by the claim, members are urged to vote 'yes' in the current industrial action ballot and return their ballot paper by 30 October 2019.


UCU has accused universities of 'playing games' after they ruled out talking about pay, less than a week before its members are due to walk out on strike for eight days at 60 universities.

With one week until the strikes in 57 institutions over pay & conditions, UCU general secretary Jo Grady says the best way to make that happen is to be ready to follow through on our threat of strike action and make it as effective as possible: One week from strike action

FAQs, resources and more in the new strike info centre.

Employers have just under two weeks to meet us and find a solution to our disputes over USS pensions and pay and equality and Jo Grady makes clear that the ball is in the employers' court.

Sixty UK universities will be hit with eight days of strike action from Monday 25 November to Wednesday 4 December, UCU announced today: UCU announces eight days of strikes starting this month at 60 universities

UCU general secretary Jo Grady told members 'I am serious about using the powerful mandate you have given the union to get round the negotiating table and achieving a meaningful, lasting resolution': Eight days of strike action called in HE disputes

UCU members working in UK universities have backed strike action in ballots over both pensions and pay and working conditions: UCU members back strikes over both pensions and pay and conditions

The general secretary, Jo Grady, said that the HE ballot results send a strong message to employers.

With time nearly up, Jo Grady says every vote counts in the HE ballots.

With the ballot deadline looming, Jo Grady urges members to beat the 50% threshold.

Jo Grady argues that we need to fight to defend the national agreements that hold the sector together in both post-92 and the pre-92 sectors.

Jo Grady urges members to vote in the current pay and equalities ballot: We're worth it - so have your say

Members have only two weeks left to vote in UCU's national ballot on pay and pay-related issues, before the deadline closes on 30 October: Give your union a mandate to make the sector fairer

UCU has urged university employers to 'stop spinning and start talking' on pay and pensions, after the Universities and Colleges Employers Association published a second misleading report within a week down-playing problems with pay and contracts in the sector, while failing to respond to a call for renewed talks from the shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has said that she 'fully supports' UCU members fighting for fair pay and decent pensions, while calling for urgent talks to try and resolve the disputes.

Pay for university staff has plummeted in real-terms in the last decade, according to a report released by universities' representatives. The findings, from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), show that the pay of staff has dropped by around 17% in real-terms since 2009.

Access to UCU's fighting fund will be changed to enable better support for members in the event of strike action being taken as a result of the pay and equality industrial action ballot UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, has announced: Strike fund support

We've published an FAQ on the pay and equality dispute and how we've got to where were are now: HE pay and equalities - explained!

For a more indepth review of what's at stake, please watch this presentation by UCU HE pay negotiator Robyn Orfitelli: Pay and equalities: (not!) enough already

The general secretary announces that the National Union of Students (NUS) has agreed to work with UCU and throw its full weight behind our strike ballots: We stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with you. Read the full joint public statement: Joint UCU/NUS statement on the current HE disputes

Post-92 members need a better deal, which is why they should back the industrial action, says UCU's general secretary.

Vote yes, urges UCU general secretary Jo Grady, so that we can put pressure on the employers to enter into meaningful negotiations to find a long-term solution to the sector's ongoing issues.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady is touring higher education institutions across the UK this autumn, calling on members to vote YES in both the USS pension ballot and the higher education pay and equality ballot.

Industrial action ballots confirmed: University strike ballots will open on Monday 9 September

As the USS and equality and pay-related ballots are due to open in higher education, UCU general secretary updates members on the latest developments and the importance of the ballots.

Following the Higher Education Committee (HEC) rejection of the employers' final offer, on 16 and 25 July UCU participated in JNCHES dispute resolution talks with UCEA and the other HE trade unions. During the meetings UCU negotiators pressed the employer's side to improve their offer on pay, gender and race pay, precarious contracts and workloads; all of which are core UCU policy objectives and headline elements of the campaign.

It is very disappointing to report that the employers failed to sufficiently improve their offer.

In line with the decisions taken by the HEC, UCU has today written to the heads of institutions we believe are part of the JNCHES national bargaining arrangements lodging a trade dispute with each institution and setting out the steps they should take to resolve the dispute.

UCU's general secretary-elect, Jo Grady, updates members on the position of the employers on annual negotiations around pay, equality, job security, and workload, as well as USS: Defending our profession

The UCU HE national negotiating team for 2019/20 has now been confirmed, and includes Vicky Blake, Mark Abel and Jo McNeil (Higher Education Committee chair and vice chairs) and four negotiators elected by HE sector conference at the end of May: Joanna de Groot, Marian Mayer, Robyn Orfitelli and Sean Wallis. You can contact the negotiators through UCU head of HE, Paul Bridge.

UCU general secretary-elect, Jo Grady, updates on the simultaneous strike ballots over pay and USS planned for September.

UCU's higher education committee (HEC) met on 28 June and set out a timetable for that ballot on pay and also for a ballot on USS pensions to run at the same time.

The ballots will run from Monday 9 September to Wednesday 30 October and the union's HEC will meet to consider the results on Friday 1 November. The ballots will be disaggregated so each institution will be polled separately.

Universities on strike warning as UCU announces pay and pension ballots

At the annual UCU congress meeting in Harrogate delegates voted for an industrial action ballot in the autumn on the issues of precarious employment, pay inequality, workload and salary erosion in higher education. This follows the employers' refusal to engage properly with the union's national claim beyond offering a below inflation pay increase of 1.8%. 

The next step is that UCU's higher education committee (HEC) will meet on 28 June to agree the substance of and timetable for the national campaign. You can read the pay claim presented to the employers here.

UCU branches will continue to campaign locally to exert pressure on employers to tackle the issues of casualisation, workload and inequality. We will provide a full report to members following the HEC meeting.

The national negotiators' have produced a report for the higher education sector conference being held at the end of the month, which includes recommendations on motion HE1 on HE pay. Branches have been asked to consider the report and its recommendations and circulate to members.

The third and final negotiating meeting took place on Tuesday 30 April.

UCEA offered a slightly improved headline pay offer which means which means 1.8 % for UCU members. The offer also means and higher tapering to bottom of spine from point 15 downwards and spine point 2 is removed; 1.8% meets the current consumer price index including housing (CPIH) measure of inflation but not retail price index (RPI).

UCEA also made a limited improved offer of joint work on gender pay and intersectional issues in the form of reviewing existing data and looking a new data however this falls short of action plans and JNCHES reviews as set out in the claim.

On precarious contracts the offer is for limited work on data and zero hours guidance but again no action orientation and role for JNCHES on reviewing local agreements.

The employers made no meaningful offer on workload.

UCU's negotiators expressed their disappointment with the offer and confirmed it will be considered by HE sector conference at the end of the month.

The second negotiating meeting took place on 11 April. The national employers' representatives marginally improved the headline pay offer to 1.5% for UCU represented grades, which was tapered slightly higher for those in the lowest grades on the pay spine. UCEA made no meaningful offer in regards to the pay equality elements of the claim: a national agreement on closing the gender pay gap and addressing intersectional issues; UK level joint action to deal with widespread casual contracts in the sector; and an agreement to tackle excessive working hours. UCEA re-confirmed that they do not have a mandate from employers to deal with gender pay, precarious employment or workloads at the JNCHES negotiations.

UCU's negotiators expressed their frustration with the UCEA pay offer which means another below inflation increase for members. On pay equality, the negotiators expressed concern that in UCEA were deliberately restricting JNCHES and that this was not acceptable or sustainable.

The final meeting takes place on 30 April. Branches and members will be updated after the meeting.

The higher education trade unions met the employers at the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) on 26 March for the first New JNCHES pay negotiation meeting for 2019/20. The joint trade unions presented their claim and pressed the employers to reverse the decline in members pay as well as addressing gender inequality, precarious contracts and workload.

The employers made the following statement:

'The employers open the negotiations, on behalf of the participating universities, with an initial envelope for discussion of 1.3% across all the elements of the pay claim.'

The unions note the employers opening position which falls far short of the unions' claim. The negotiations continue on 11 April, the unions are looking forward to receiving an improved offer which provides a fair pay rise, and addresses all elements of the pay claim.

Last updated: 19 November 2019