Disappointment and frustration as TUs fail to explore non pay elements of their claim

4 April 2022

Disappointment and frustration as TUs fail to explore non-pay elements of their claim

UCEA and the HE trade unions met on 30 March 2022 as New JNCHES for the first of the three agreed meetings of HE pay negotiating round for 2022-23*. UCEA and trade union representatives expected to discuss the new full joint claim and the employers’ statement**. UCEA and the five trade unions are, through New JNCHES, negotiating on behalf of more than 350,000 valued staff across 145 HE institutions. 

The trade unions’ full claim was received (23 March) after the UCEA Board’s annual negotiations preparation meeting (22 March) which was late considering the established process for negotiations. As a result, the employers’ side informed trade unions in advance of the meeting that while they would not be able to offer a full response to all elements of the claim, they would discuss all elements, including the non-pay items which make up the majority of the claim. This is by no means unprecedented, with employers not being in a position to offer a pay uplift figure at the first meeting in previous rounds***. Nor does it jeopardise the August implementation date for the pay uplift. 

Raj Jethwa, UCEA’s Chief Executive said:
“Trade union negotiators were informed that we would not be in a position to offer a full response to their claim given its late submission. This is why their response**** is so disappointing, in particular their unwillingness to take part in constructive dialogue over the very many various elements of their claim. 

“Last year we were accused of failing to negotiate on the non-pay elements of their claim*****. We came fully prepared to discuss these non-pay elements again this year but have not been given the opportunity to do so. Employers have entered this year’s talks in good faith. Despite the challenges of the last two negotiating rounds, employers are keen that this year’s round offers the possibility of both progress and jointly agreed outcomes. We genuinely seek to work with the unions on many of the non-pay elements of their claim.

“The 2022-23 pay uplift is not due until 1 August. Given the considerable discussion required, the employers were dismayed that while the trade unions presented their claim in full, they did not reciprocate by allowing the employers to present their statement which includes the cost of living. Notwithstanding that, UCEA as the employer representatives acknowledged the level of inflation and the impact this has, particularly on staff on the lower points of the pay spine. 

“The employers’ statement emphasises how the 145 participating HE institutions face unprecedented financial challenges. These include the precarious global situation and the impact of rising prices on the ability of HEIs to fund operations. The many known financial challenges for HE institutions include the freeze on the fee cap until 2024–25, National Insurance increases and the increases in employers’ pension contributions. The statement also includes reference to the cost of living and inflation figures.

“The employers’ side has even committed to presenting the trade unions with an opening pay offer prior to the next meeting, on 25 April. Our member HE institutions are committed to rewarding and developing staff and UCEA remains committed to the 2022-23 New JNCHES pay round. We also hope to present the employers’ statement and discuss all claim items at the second meeting, which is still more than three months prior to the planned implementation date for the pay uplift.”  

* The negotiating meetings for the 2022-23 are: 30 March, 25 April and 5 May 2022  
** The trade unions’ headline pay claim is for ‘a pay uplift that is, at least, inflation (RPI) plus 2%, on all pay points’. RPI for February 2022 was 8.2% - www.ucea.ac.uk/our-work/collective-pay-negotiations-landing/2022-23-new-jnches-pay-round/ 
*** The 2018-19 pay round - www.ucea.ac.uk/news-releases/26march18/
**** Joint Trade Union statement https://twitter.com/ucu/status/1510971681334079492   
***** Bottom of page 15 - https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/2893/pdf/ 

JNCHES - Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff. 
The five HE trade unions are EIS, GMB, UCU, UNISON and Unite.
The employers’ statement: www.ucea.ac.uk/our-work/collective-pay-negotiations-landing/2022-23-new-jnches-pay-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).