Joint education unions, including UNISON, have voiced their ‘outrage’ at the university employers’ decision not to present a pay offer for members in the first meeting of the 2022/23 pay round, last week.
The five unions, who are part of the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES), released a statement yesterday, condemning the decision by the Universities and Colleges Employer’s Association (UCEA) that they were “not yet in a position” to present a pay offer.
The UCEA was presented with the unions’ fully evidenced pay claim at the end of February, and had over a month to consider it and prepare an offer.
Without one, higher education members are being left in limbo at a critical moment for the sector, with workers facing a massive cost-of-living crisis after years of below-inflation pay increases.
Furthermore, the decision to delay the pay process comes in the middle of an ongoing dispute about the 2021/22 pay round which has resulted in industrial action mandates for nine UNISON branches, seven of whom have taken strike action in the last fortnight alone.
In the statement, the unions said: “These are unprecedented times, and we can’t underestimate the impact on our members. We would expect UCEA representatives to act with urgency in putting an offer on the table.”
The employers have now committed to providing an offer in writing before the next meeting of the JNHCES on 25 April.
Ruth Smith, UNISON senior national officer for education, said: “It’s a great disappointment that the UCEA negotiators have decided not to present an offer, especially at a time like this, and it sends a message that the employers do not understand the urgency of the issue.
“Last year, most members only received a 1.5% increase and the year before there was a pay freeze. Now, with spiralling inflation and members facing massive increases to their gas, energy and food bills, the last thing they need is more uncertainty.
“The employers must understand the genuine hardship that many of our members working in higher education are currently suffering.
“Members were hoping for some good news from this new round of talks, but they will be bitterly disappointed that the employers had nothing to say on pay, at this critical time.”