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Further information on the planned industrial action

06 Feb 2020

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced further strike action

Following Monday’s announcement by the University and College Union (UCU) of 14 days of strike action in February and March, it is important to recognise progress related to the key areas under dispute.

We are surprised and very disappointed at UCU’s decision to take such major industrial action while all sides are still involved in discussions to resolve the issues, and indeed UCU has fed back positively on these discussions. New proposals have not as yet been put to UCU members for consideration. This progress is set out below.

On pay and conditions:

UCEA has proposed changes on three key areas:

  • contractual arrangements; workload and mental health; and gender pay gap and ethnicity pay, with a significant number of proposals for each issue and comprehensive sector and institutional level actions and expectations.

For example, at the sector level, actions include:

  • a new trade union/employer working group examining such things as trends in ‘zero hours’ and ‘hourly-paid’ employment.
  • further development of the national Stress and Mental Wellbeing resources.
  • development of an HE-specific ‘checklist’ of suggestions to address blockages and enablers of women’s career progression, and balanced representation in gender dominated roles.
  • examining and reporting on the national ethnicity pay gap data and identifying actions and interventions being taken by employers.

The proposals demonstrate unprecedented support and commitment from all 147 member HE institutions, including our University, to address the employment issues raised in the UCU dispute.

We were already working on many of the key concerns raised in the UCU dispute. We have already answered questions on some aspects such as fixed term contracts and ‘casualisation of staff’.

We share UCU’s concerns about the need to address concerns including workloads, wellbeing and stress and pay differentials. We are working hard on how we can reduce workloads and are asking you all to tell us ways in which we can do this. Please continue to forward all suggestions to

We have outlined the measures we are taking to support postgraduate students and we are also considering how we further support staff who are experiencing stress. We are building on our existing well-being provision as part of Our People, Our Values from the new strategic plan

The combination of national pay awards and annual increments is such that the average pay increase (excluding promotions) this year is above inflation, and has also been above inflation over the past five and ten year periods. UCEA has produced infographics which provide helpful information on employment contracts, pensions and pay over the last 20 years in HE and comparisons to other sectors, both public and private, which have fared less well.

On the USS pension scheme:

The current tripartite talks between UCU, USS, and UUK, which are set to continue at least until March, are building a shared understanding of,the future of the scheme, jointly developing governance reforms and considering alternative pathways for the 2020 valuation.

To date, progress has been made in the following areas:

  • New chair of the USS Trustee Board who is independent of the HE sector.
  • A new scheme purpose statement has been drafted.
  • Shared valuation principles have been developed.
  • A 2020 valuation methodology forum has been established, with representation from the USS Trustee and nominees from UCU and UUK.
  • Enhanced engagement and visibility of USS Trustee Board members, through regular attendance at Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) meetings, good engagement with the tripartite talks and with the commitment to direct early engagement with stakeholders on the valuation methodology.
  • Commitment from USS to fully explore a Dual Discount Rate as part of the development of the 2020 valuation methodology.
  • A shared desire to review the effectiveness of the JNC with joint work on options analysis to commence during February.
  • Agreement to establish a strategic discussion forum, with senior representation, to meet at least twice yearly, to consider longer term issues.

Further information on this encouraging progress is available on the USS Employers and JEP websites where you will also find a glossary of key terms.

We will of course continue to provide you with regular updates as these negotiations continue.

Kind Regards,

Karen Heaton

Director of Human Resources