Union disputes 2023-24

5 September 2023

Jo Grady, General Secretary of UCU wrote to UCEA

 Jo Grady letter to UCEA - 5 September 2023

4 September 2023

UCEA wrote to both Jo Grady, General Secretary of UCU and the Joint Union Side Secretaries re-iterating our offer of Acas facilitated talks

 UCEA letter to Jo Grady - 4 September 2023 
UCEA letter Joint Union Side Secretaries - 4 September 2023

23 August 2023

Briefing note: Impact of UCU’s MAB
UCEA issued a briefing note (below) that summarises the impact of the MAB survey kindly completed by members over the past week.
This latest data is based on returns from 120 HEIs of the 144 HEIs that are involved in the MAB. Returns from these HEIs account for approximately 80% of the final year undergraduate population. Most notable was that 93 HEIs (78% of the sample) reported that all of their final year students have now been able to graduate.

 MAB impact - August 2023

16 August 2023

On 16 August UCEA wrote to Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP, Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education in response to his letter to us on 11 August. The exchange between the Minister and UCEA can be found below. The Minister’s letter to UCU can be found online.
 Letter from Raj Jethwa, UCEA to Rt Hon Robert Halfon - 16 August
 Letter from Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP to Raj Jethwa, UCEA - 11 August

4 August 2023

On 2 August UCEA received a letter from UCU in response to our letter of 31 July (see below)
 UCU letter to UCEA - 2 August 2023
On 4 August we wrote to UCU in response to their letter
 UCEA letter to UCU - 4 August 2023
We also wrote to the Joint New JNCHES Secretaries 
 UCEA Letter - to New JNCHES Secretaries - 4 August 2023

1 August 2023

UCEA believes there is an urgent need to re-set industrial relations and to end the cycle of industrial action in higher education. However, significant changes to the sector’s funding model over the last decade have placed increasing strain on industrial relations in recent years.
Such financial pressures mean that UCEA was at the very edge of its mandate with this year’s pay uplift of 5-8%, nearly half of which was delivered six months early to address cost of living pressures. The remaining portion of the 2023-24 uplift is due to be implemented from 1 August 2023. This uplift prioritises the disproportionate effect of high inflation falling on the lower paid. Around half of HE staff on the New JNCHES spine will also be eligible for pay progression, typically worth 3% on top of the base pay uplift. 
Given the wide difference of views between the unions and the employers on the ability of the sector to pay higher increases, UCEA is willing to work with UCU and the other unions on a joint, independently facilitated review of sector finances.
In addition, since 14 July 2023, UCEA has met with UCU and the Joint Union Side Secretaries on three occasions. The main focus of these exploratory talks has been UCU’s request for the return of deductions for participation in the marking and assessment boycott (MAB). 
Although returning deducted pay to staff who have already participated in the boycott would be unfair to the many staff who have worked tirelessly to mitigate its impact, UCEA has offered the following, if UCU calls a halt to the MAB:

  • A recommendation to HEIs that where planned pay deductions have not yet been withheld, that these are deducted on a phased basis to ease the financial impact on UCU members who have participated in the MAB
  • A recommendation that employers recognise the pre-booked leave arrangements of staff and the importance of having a reasonable workload upon the resumption of normal working.

UCEA has written to UCU and the other Joint HE Trade Unions setting out the above. The letter can be found below:
 UCEA Letter - 31 July 2023


On 24 February 2023 UCEA advised employers participating in the 2023-24 New JNCHES pay round that the pay negotiations had concluded.  New JNCHES 2023-24 pay negotiations were separated into two phases: Phase one - pay and Phase two - non-pay items. The advice to implement the pay uplifts followed the conclusion of the dispute resolution process on the pay negotiations with the five HE trade unions. UCEA informed HEIs that they should proceed to implement the pay outcome after the period of calm which ended on 5 March 2023. Employers were asked to implement the pay uplifts offered with effect from 1 February 2023 (the interim uplift), with the remainder to be implemented from 1 August 2023, as and when their payroll systems allow.

Acas talks on 14 March and terms of reference for Phase two of the JNCHES 23-24 negotiating round

On 14 March UCEA met with the trade unions in Acas facilitated talks to finalise the details of the terms reference (ToRs) for Phase two of the New JNCHES negotiations, the non-pay items. All parties agreed to consult their respective constituencies on the ToRs which were endorsed by the UCEA Board on 16 March. 

Please see UCEA's 2023-24 New JNCHES pay round webpage for subsequent correspondence between UCEA, the Joint Union Side Secretaries and UCU, including the most recent letters.

Position of the five trade unions

UCU rejected the 2023-24 New JNCHES pay outcome and are currently taking industrial action under the 2022-23 dispute. On 11 September 2023 UCU gave formal notice of a statutory ballot for industrial action over the 2023-24 New JNCHES pay outcome. The aggregated ballot of 144 HEIs is for the same forms of industrial action as the 2022-23 dispute, including action short of strike (ASOS) comprising:

  • a marking and assessment boycott
  • working to contract and not undertaking any voluntary activities
  • not covering for absent colleagues
  • removing uploaded materials related to and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action
  • not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action.

The ballot opened on 19 September and closes on 3 November.

UNISON have rejected the 2023-24 New JNCHES pay outcome. UNISON balloted 41 of the 144 participating HEIs for strike action and secured a mandate at 22 of the HEIs it balloted. UNISON has taken strike action at all the HEIs where it holds a mandate. The duration of the strike action ranges from between two to 11 days with most HEIs experiencing between two and five days. 

Unite have rejected the 2023-24 New JNCHES pay outcome and have balloted or are balloting 19 HEIs for industrial action on a disaggregated basis. The ballots which closed in Scotland on 21 August resulted in Unite securing a mandate at five of the ten HEIs it balloted. Unite have secured a mandate at three HEIs in England with the remaining ballots due to close shortly.  Unite have taken five days of strike action at five of the HEIs where it holds a mandate.

EIS gave formal notice of an aggregated ballot over the 2023-24 New JNCHES pay outcome on 22 September. The ballot is for industrial action comprising strike action and ASOS in the form of "work to contract' - withdrawal of goodwill (including stopping out of hours emails)". The ballot opens on 29 September and closes on 3 November,

GMB have conducted regional consultative ballots to determine whether to pursue industrial action in relation to the 2023-24 New JNCHES pay uplift but have not announced any statutory industrial action ballots.