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Email to staff and PGRs 1 March 2023

Email from Charlie Jeffery, Vice Chancellor, to all staff and postgraduate researchers.

Update on pay negotiations and industrial action 1 March

Dear colleagues and postgraduate researchers

I’d like to share an update on how the national negotiations on pay and pensions have been progressing during the current period of ‘pause’ in industrial action. 

While challenges remain, significant progress has been made. We have a window of opportunity to push on and achieve a settlement. I strongly encourage all parties to work together to take it and bring the sector the stability we sorely need.

Pay and working conditions

The national negotiations continue to be facilitated by ACAS, the independent Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, with talks separated into different phases; phase one on pay negotiations, and phase two on tackling non-pay issues, including contract types, pay gaps and a revised pay spine. 

On phase one, I note that UCU and UCEA have declared an ‘impasse’ on the pay discussions. This unusual language seems to me to be a pragmatic formulation to recognise the tension between calls for a pay rise that more fully reflects inflationary pressures, and the inability of many universities in the sector to pay more as inflation severely erodes income from undergraduate teaching. There is a balance to be struck here, between maintaining a national pay framework - which all sides see as a priority - and doing what we can to get increased pay into colleagues’ pay packets as quickly as possible. 

Against that background, we have received advice from UCEA to implement the front-loaded element of the 2023-24 pay award (for most colleagues, an extra 2% as of February, with a further 3% to follow in August). We will be doing so, as advised, in the March payroll so as to provide a much-needed pay boost in the face of cost of living pressures. HR will be sharing more detailed information shortly.

On phase two, all parties have agreed to continue discussions through ACAS. There appears to be a real will towards agreeing a new framework for these non-pay issues, and good progress has been made on establishing terms of reference for negotiations on the review of the pay spine. 

Resolving the non-pay issues will be an important element of an overall package that will improve how the sector can recognise and reward the work and talents of its staff. Certainly, in my discussions with other Vice-Chancellors over the last few weeks, there is a strong appetite to move swiftly on the opportunities presented by these talks, and I will continue to do all that I can to boost this momentum.

USS pensions

As set out in the recent joint statement between UUK and UCU, there is shared optimism that the next USS pensions valuation, scheduled for later this month, will allow for a return to a level of future benefits comparable to that which existed before the April 2022 changes, as well as enabling a reduction in costs for members and employers. 

There is also a strong commitment to continue to work together and explore how we can take shared steps to bring greater stability to the scheme through to the 2026 valuation and beyond. 

Additional day of industrial action

Against the background of these positive developments, it was disappointing yesterday to receive notification of an additional day of strike action on Wednesday 15 March. As I have said many times before, I do not believe we will be convincing in making our case on reform of the system for funding undergraduate study and better pensions regulation for the sector if we remain in a repeated cycle of industrial conflict. We need to build on the momentum established in recent weeks, and I will certainly continue to do all that I can to help achieve a stable settlement. 

Best wishes


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Contact us

If you're a member of staff taking part in industrial action, please contact HR if you have any questions:

Use this email address for any other enquiries: