HE employers make fair and sustainable final pay offer

7 May 2021

UCEA, representing 146 participating HE employers*, has made a final pay offer which guarantees increases of at least 1.5%. Higher percentage uplifts will be made to the pay points below Spine Point 22, up to a maximum of 3.6%. UCEA and the HE trade unions** met yesterday (6 May 2021) as New JNCHES*** for the final of three agreed meetings of the HE negotiating round for the 2021-22 base pay uplift****.

This final offer is a significant improvement upon the employers’ opening offer, having moved twice over the course of this negotiating round. 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. Additionally, around half the staff covered by the negotiations are also eligible for additional progression pay increases.

Discussions recognised that there was complexity given the range of financial health across the sector institutions in this collective negotiation. However, regardless of the severity of the financial challenges, including insecurities relating to Covid-19, Brexit and significant increases in employers’ pension contributions, UCEA’s members were determined to provide meaningful and sustainable pay uplifts to acknowledge their hard-working employees. 

The trade unions’ initial claim***** consisted of 13 separate elements, seven of which related directly to non-pay elements. Both sides explored options and opportunities for the possibilities of joint working to progress a number of the important issues raised in the claim. The full and final offer will contain more details of this, including UCEA and its members sharing the commitment of the sector trade unions to taking concrete action and further joint working to reduce the gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps.

Employers are concerned that while some elements in the claim fall outside of the New JNCHES remit they do recognise that many of the important areas are being prioritised at institutional level.

Employers were pleased that the trade unions expressed a willingness to negotiate as the initial headline claim of a £2,500 pay uplift on all points would equate to uplifts ranging between 15.7% and 4%.  
Professor Mark E. Smith, Chair of UCEA, said:
“We listened very carefully on all pay issues and discussed these in depth alongside all matters within the scope of New JNCHES. 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:
“This is a carefully constructed pay offer which balances affordability for our member institutions with a desire to provide a meaningful uplift for staff in the sector. Our award recognises the hard work of staff over the last 12 months. We have listened to the unions and reflected on their demands. 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.”


* The Employers’ Statement and list of participating employers for this year can be found at www.ucea.ac.uk/our-work/collective-pay-negotiations-landing/2021-22-nj-round/ 
** EIS, GMB, UCU, UNISON and Unite
*** The Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff is the forum in which the employers, represented by UCEA, and the trade unions negotiate on the base uplift to the National Pay Spine. The National Pay Spine is used by most HEIs to underpin the pay and grading arrangements for staff up to Professor level (and equivalent), covering around 85% of the HE workforce. For overview and the New JNCHES Agreement go to: www.ucea.ac.uk/our-work/collective-pay-negotiations-landing/New-JNCHES-Overview/ 
**** The New JNCHES negotiating timetable is a process that usually runs across meetings in March, April and May. This forum allows for three negotiating meetings (31 March, 14 April and 6 May) and more if required.  
***** The trade unions’ claim can be found at  www.ucea.ac.uk/our-work/collective-pay-negotiations-landing/2021-22-nj-round/

For further information please contact: Andy Fryer, Head of Communications and Membership (a.fryer@ucea.ac.uk) or Marc Whittaker, Communications and Events Manager (m.whittaker@ucea.ac.uk).