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Progress on national industrial dispute

30 Jan 2020

President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Nancy Rothwell gives an update on negotiations

Dear colleague

As you will be aware there are several aspects of the current dispute between University and College Union (UCU) and universities including pay, pensions, pay gaps and some aspects of working conditions and contracts.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which is the body that oversees and negotiates on pay in universities, has put forward some new proposals as a result of the ongoing national negotiations with UCU. UCU has reported these proposals to its members. More details of the proposals can be found on the UCEA website. I think that this is a positive step in the negotiations.

UCU has welcomed the proposals from UCEA but has indicated that they do not go far enough in areas such as pay. UCU is also concerned about staff workload, amongst other aspects of working conditions, which is a concern that we share. 

As you may know, at our University we have been working to identify undue workload pressures and consider how these can be addressed. We recognise the impact of high workload on staff well-being and are looking at what activities we could do less of or differently to reduce workload. We are also considering how we further support staff who are experiencing stress. We are building our existing well-being provision as part of Our, People Our Values from the new strategic plan and are inviting staff to feed in suggestions on areas that would help to enhance staff well-being and reduce workloads and we have already received some good suggestions. Please forward all suggestions to

UCU is also in dispute over the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension. Dame Kate Barker will become the chair of the Scheme later this year. She brings considerable experience to this important role, having been Chief Economic Adviser to the CBI and a member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee – as well as experience of working with our sector. She does not hold any management role in higher education.

Meanwhile, Universities UUK, UCU and the USS trustee have been holding meetings throughout January on the recommendations from the recent second report from the Joint Expert Panel. 

Employers have been invited by UUK to contribute to a consultation on this report. We will of course publish our response in full on StaffNet as soon as it is submitted on 28 February. 

The recent re-balloting of institutions that fell just below the 50% threshold required to take industrial action has resulted in 14 further universities that are now above the threshold which have voted to take industrial action on pay, pensions or both.

UCU’s Higher Education Committee is meeting today to consider its next course of action and whether further industrial action will follow.

We will report on this at the earliest opportunity.  We very much hope that this will not be the case as it always regrettable when our staff feel the need to take industrial action and it is something that we are working hard to resolve.

We will also be communicating regularly with our students on this matter as our priority remains to minimise any disruption to them.

Nancy Rothwell

President and Vice-Chancellor