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Movement in the second pay negotiations meeting as UCEA indicates increases of between 2.5% and 1.5%

UCEA, on behalf of the participating HE institutions, and the HE trade unions met yesterday (11 April 2019) as New JNCHES for the second of the three agreed meetings of the HE pay negotiating round for 2019-20*. All elements of the trade unions’ joint claim** were discussed further, with a thorough exploration of what might be possible both within the JNCHES remit and a very challenging context.  
At this mid-stage in the negotiations, UCEA improved on the opening ‘envelope’ to an ‘envelope’ of around 1.5% enabling increases to the lower paid of up to 2.5%, seeking to target above inflation increases to those who feel the cost of living most keenly. Coupled with the progression pay available to more than half the employees covered by these negotiations (and 3 in 5 of the academic staff) this would result in increases of around 4.5% for those not yet at the maximum of their pay ranges, and a sector level average pay increase of around 3%. 
In this collective negotiation UCEA seeks to balance affordability across all the HE institutions involved but we know that they all are committed to maintaining fair pay and excellent benefits packages for their colleagues. It is clear this year that the participating HE institutions are facing unprecedented financial challenges, especially some very large increases in the contributions they as employers have to pay towards their employees’ valued pension schemes.  
Through JNCHES the value of the pay spine has in fact kept pace with inflation over the past five years and, with settlements targeting higher increases for lower paid staff, we have seen a real terms increase of 5% on the lowest pay point.***
UCEA also indicated positive responses on a range of other issues raised by the trade unions in their claim where there is scope for sector-level work****. This included exploration of new joint work to examine the latest sector data relating to ‘zero hours’ and ‘hourly paid’ employees.
Professor Mark E. Smith, Chair of UCEA, said:
“This was an important meeting for both UCEA and the unions to take forward our discussions. We remain committed to arriving at a fair and sustainable outcome in these unprecedented times. A negotiation involves all parties moving and in this context we improved our opening offer to an ‘envelope’ of 1.5% across all elements of the pay claim. This envelope would bring around 3% in the sector average value of pay increases and, for employers, also sits beside contribution increases on pensions of up to 7% of salary, significantly raising the cost of remuneration of our staff. HE institutions are very conscious of the need to keep providing an attractive total reward package. Of course, further explorations and constructive considerations from all sides are required before we can conclude these negotiations, but we hope to reach an agreement at our final meeting on 30 April.” 
* The Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES) is the national machinery for negotiating the uplift to the 50 point pay spine. UCEA represents the participating employers (146 have opted to participate this year) and negotiates with the five HE trade unions: EIS, GMB, UCU, UNISON and Unite.
The three scheduled meetings for 2019 are Tuesday 26 March, Thursday 11 April and Tuesday 30 April.
** The trade unions’ headline pay claim was for RPI plus 3% or a minimum increase of £3,349 (whichever is greater); the latter would equate to a minimum hourly rate of £10 per hour. UCEA’s ‘Current pay negotiations’ website page hosts fuller details of the 2019-20 Pay Negotiations, including the trade unions’ joint claim and the employers’ context document. 
*** Real-terms change in pay spine points, 2013-14 to 2018-19
Spine point 2013-14 (real-terms 2018) 2018-19 Real-terms change to 2018-19
2 £15,128 £15,842 5%
30 £33,257 £33,199 0%
51 £61,726 £61,618 0%


Source: UCEA calculations based on CPIH inflation as at August.
 **** Some elements of the trade unions’ claim – including for JNCHES to play a role in both requiring and ‘policing’ actions by individual HE institutions, determination of working weeks by universities and the contracting out of some services by some universities – are outside of the remit of the JNCHES pay negotiating machinery and UCEA has been clear where it has no role or no mandate from participating employers.
For further information: Please contact Andy Fryer, Head of Communications and Membership ( or Marc Whittaker, Communications and Events Manager ( Call 020 7383 2444.