Thanks for nothing. University staff have been offered 0% for the toughest year of our working lives. Vote YES to strike for the pay we deserve.

HE pay ballot

What’s the ballot about?

Did you hear about the higher education pay offer for 2020/21?

No, you didn’t miss it in your pay packet – it was a big fat nothing. A 0% pay rise during the pandemic.

Employers stuck by that figure, which said loud and clear that they think you deserved nothing extra for keeping students safe and supported. Nothing extra for making remote learning a reality. Nothing extra for enabling vital research to continue.

Nothing extra for the toughest year of your working lives.

When vice chancellors told us staff were owed “an enormous debt of gratitude” for their “hard work and commitment”, we hoped that might actually mean something.

So after a year of crushing workloads it was a real insult to see those warm words backed up, in financial terms, with absolutely nothing to speak of.

The employers aren’t going to rethink the August 2020 pay freeze unless we stand firm together.

A ballot paper will be sent to your home address and UNISON recommends that you vote YES to strike for the pay you deserve.

Remember to make sure your vote is returned in good time before the ballot closes – there are different dates depending on whether you live in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland. Check the FAQs below for details where you are.

Please join your colleagues in voting to tell your employer that university staff expect decent pay, fair workloads and secure employment.

Vote YES for strike action to remind your employer that you deserve nothing less.


FAQs for members

Who is being asked to vote for strike action on the pay freeze?

All HE branches were asked if they wanted be included in a ballot against the pay freeze that came into effect on 1 August 2020.

Branches covering 48 universities opted to run ballots for strike action against the pay freeze.

If you work for one of the universities on the list below, then you are going to be sent a postal ballot:

Arts University Bournemouth
Bath Spa University
Birkbeck College
City University
Edinburgh Napier University
Glasgow Caledonian University
Lancaster University
Leeds Arts University
Leeds Beckett University
Liverpool John Moores University
London Metropolitan University
London School Economics and Political Science
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Manchester Metro University
Open University
Oxford Brookes University
Queen Mary University of London
Robert Gordon University
SOAS University of London
Sheffield Hallam University
Solent University
Staffordshire University
The University of Chester
The University of Glasgow
Ulster University
University College London
University of Aberdeen
University of Bath
University of Bedfordshire
University of Bradford
University of Brighton
University of Bristol
University of Chichester
University of Cumbria
University of East Anglia
University of East London
University of Gloucestershire
University of Leeds
University of Plymouth
University of Portsmouth
University of Southampton
University of St Mark & St John
University of Surrey
University of the West of Scotland
University of Westminster
University of Winchester
University of Worcester
York St John University

This ballot covers staff employed directly by the university who are covered by national HE pay bargaining for the year 2020/21.

If you work for a students’ union, arms-length company or private contractor then you won’t be balloted but you can still show support to your colleagues who are voting to take action.

Why aren’t all universities being balloted?

In previous years UNISON has run a single national aggregated ballot in higher education pay disputes.

UNISON HE conference policy changed this to running ‘disaggregated’ ballots at a local employer level.

Branches were asked if they wished to run local ballots for action.

When does the pay ballot open and how long is it open for?

There are different ballot dates depending on where you live.

  • In England the ballot runs from 28 June – 10 August
  • In Scotland the ballot runs from 2 August – 27 August
  • In Northern Ireland the ballot runs from 28 June – 13 September

How do I vote?

You will receive a ballot paper, sent to your home address. To vote you’ll need to complete the ballot paper and return it in the freepost envelope provided.

Look out for your envelope containing your vote – it looks like this:

white envelope with address window. Text in a red box reads: 'Important – your ballot papers enclosed'. The UNISON logo is in the bottom right hand corner of the envelope.
How about taking a selfie when you pop your vote in the post box? You could share it on your social media using the hashtag #ThanksForNothing. It’s so important that every member uses their vote so make sure your colleagues know about the ballot too!

Remember to post your vote in good time to make sure CES have received it before your ballot closes. The ballots close on:

  • 10 August in England
  • 27 August in Scotland
  • 13 September in Northern Ireland

Is my vote anonymous?

Yes. No-one knows how you voted but you. The ballot is run for UNISON by an independent body called Civica Election Services (CES), formerly the Electoral Reform Society.

What if I haven’t received my ballot paper?

Call UNISON Direct on 0800 0 857 857. They will verify your membership and contact CES to issue you with a replacement ballot paper.

The ballot hotline is open from:

  • 6 July to 12pm on 4 August for the England ballots
  • 9 August to 12pm on 20 August for the Scotland ballots
  • 6 July to 12pm on 7 September for the Northern Ireland ballot

I don’t seem to be receiving emails from UNISON – how can I check you have the right contact details?

It’s so important that we have an up to date email address, phone number and home address for all our members. That means we can get in touch with you about issues that affect your job, like this pay ballot.

You can check and update your details and the permissions you give UNISON to contact you using MyUNISON.

Update my details

If you haven’t yet registered on MyUNISON you can register here.

I’m not a member of UNISON – if I join will I get a vote?

Yes. If you join UNISON by the following dates, depending on where you live, you’ll get a vote in this ballot:

  • England – 30 July
  • Scotland – 17 August
  • Northern Ireland – 2 September

Why are you running a pay ballot?

On 1 August 2020 the university employers imposed a pay freeze: no pay rise after all your hard work during the pandemic.

UNISON members were consulted on this pay freeze and 86% voted to reject the pay freeze.

UNISON believes that members working in higher education deserve better – you deserve a decent pay rise for the past year. That’s why UNISON’s Higher Education Service Group Executive decided to ask branches to participate in the ballots. And that’s why we’re asking you, our members, to vote for strike action.

A vote for action will send a strong message, to your employer and to the national higher education employers, to get back round the table to negotiate a fair and decent pay rise for the past year. By standing together and taking voting to take action employers will realise that they can’t continue to take their staff for granted.

When will I find out the results?

  • In England your branch will be informed of the results after the vote closes on 10 August.
  • In Scotland your branch will be informed of the results after the vote closes on 27 August.
  • In Northern Ireland your branch will be informed of the results after the vote closes on 13 September.

Your branch will be able to inform you of the results.

What will the next steps be if a majority vote to strike?

UNISON’s higher education service group executive (HE SGE) will meet to consider the outcome of the ballots to decide how best to take the campaign forward and to provide national coordination for action. Branches will be kept informed and involved in these decisions.

Resources for branches

You can also join the HE pay webinar for branches which will be held on Tuesday 22 June at 12.30pm. Please register by emailing with your name, email address, branch and officer/activist position.

Please see the section below for the joint union pay claim and the employers’ final offer.