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HE negotiations 2021-22

Information on the UK-wide higher education negotiations for 2021-22 which take place within the Joint National Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES).

Employers' offer not good enough

UCU general secretary Jo Grady tells members the employers' 1.5% pay offer is not god enough, and provides an update on what happens next.

Final 2021/22 pay negotiations update

The final JNCHES meeting of the 2021/22 negotiating round took place yesterday, Thursday 6 May. The HE trade unions pressed UCEA to improve their opening offer of 1.1% on pay and in regards to the pay related and equality elements of the claim, for a meaningful offer that focuses on action and sector wide frameworks to address pay inequality, precarious employment and workloads. 

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. More broadly these negotiations have been shaped by the ongoing response to the pandemic and the huge collective effort staff have made to ensure HE remains successful and attractive. Also employers were reminded that staff had not had a pay rise since August 2019 and employers offered 'zero' uplift last year.

Towards the end of the meeting UCEA made a final offer on pay; the headline pay offer is 1.5%. It is to be distributed throughout the pay spine in a tapered way with a proportionately higher amount for those at the bottom relative to those at the middle and top. This is similar to the way pay outcomes has been distributed in recent years. For UCU represented grades its worth 1.5%. This falls some way short of the headline demands on pay. UCEA will provide written details of the offer and how it relates to each point on the pay spine next week. 

On the pay related and equality matters the situation is more nuanced than pay. It's important to note that UCEA have not set out their position in a written offer at this time. During the talks, negotiators sought to find imaginative ways in which the demands on pay inequality and intersectionality, exploitative casual contracts including a demand specific to GTAs and workload can be progressed. UCEA's position is that they cannot direct autonomous employers on these matters but are prepared to actively consider what is possible. The UCU negotiators stressed the need for action planning, monitoring, publishing data and the need to progress issues that aren't dependent on working groups. These discussions were involved and left little time at the end of the scheduled meeting for a detailed offer to be made by UCEA.

A full written offer is expected early next week. It's too early to say whether UCEA will make an offer that represents a meaningful attempt to address these vitally important matters. UCEA was left in no doubt about how strongly members feel and the need for real change to be made. 

Branches will be updated on the written offer as soon as possible.

JNCHES pay negotiations update

On 14 April 2021 the second of this year's JNCHES higher education pay negotiations took place.

UCEA, the HE employers' organisation, made an opening pay increase offer for the 2021-22 JNCHES negotiating round. The offer is for an increase of 1.1% on the total paybill. The employers indicated that it could support either a percentage uplift or a flat rate increase on all pay points, or a combination of these approaches. UCEA also made some limited proposals in regards to the pay related and equality elements of the claim.

The actual pay uplift, and how it relates to individual pay points, will be subject to further negotiation in the final JNCHES meeting on 6 May 2021. The joint unions will be looking at the implications of the offer in relation to both the claim and the structure of the pay uplift. The joint union are also committed to progressing all other elements of the claim.

The joint unions have indicated that the opening offer is insufficient and that more needs to be brought to the final JNCHES negotiation meeting on 6 May 2021.

Branches will be kept informed of the outcome of the final meeting.

Joint claim submitted to employers

The higher education joint trade union claim 2021/22 has been agreed by the five HE trade unions; UNISON, Unite, EIS, GMB and UCU, and has been submitted to UCEA in advance of the first New JNCHES negotiating meeting on 31 March.

The claim, which among other demands covers UCU's core Four Fight demands; a pay rise for all that is progressive, tackling intersectional pay inequality, dealing with excessive workloads, stress and mental health linked to Covid-19, and addressing wide spread precarious contracts and a specific claim for GTA's. You can read the full claim here. [412kb]

The outcome of last year's New JNCHES negotiations was an unprecedented 'zero' % pay offer by UCEA. This offer was also marked by the lack of ambition in UCEA's proposals to tackle the other UCU core demands relating to inequality, workloads and casualisation. That offer was rejected by members. There is real pressure on new JNCHES to deliver for and reward staff in 2021/22.  

The New JNCHES negotiating timetable for 2021/22:

  • meeting 1 - Wednesday 31 March 2021  
  • meeting 2 - Wednesday 14 April 2021
  • meeting 3 - Thursday 6 May 2021.

Branches will be updated with developments during the negotiations.

Joint trade union claim 2021/22

At the HE sector conferences in September and December 2020, a number of motions resolved specific demands to be included in any joint trade union claim. Reports of both conferences can be found here and here.

The process of developing the JNCHES claim and campaign for 2021/22 has begun with the joint trade union side meeting last month. The HE trade unions are Unison, Unite, GMB, EIS and UCU.

The higher education committee (HEC) considered the early developments with the claim, the key UCU policy and principles that should be in a joint union claim.

The HE trade unions will continue to develop the claim with the aim of submitting it to UCEA, the employers' representatives, in advance of the first negotiating meeting on 31 March. Given the timetable HEC agreed to delegate the further development of the claim and its final sign off to the HEC officers and national negotiators.  

Branches have been asked to look out for further communication on the joint trade union claim.

Last updated: 13 May 2021