Reasons to vote

Voting numbers really do matter. Your vote, your voice, matters.

The option of holding a strike requires 50% of branch members to take part in the ballot. Even a “no” vote is more important than not voting at all. Remember, industrial action ballots are secret ballots. They are conducted and counted by an independent scrutineer, in our case that’s Civica, who also administer the posting out of ballot papers.

How you vote is up to you. But if you have any queries you want answered to help you make your decision, contact your reps for more information, especially if you have never participated in a strike ballot or action before (for which you will get strike pay from Unite).

It is very important you do not waste your opportunity to affect the outcome of the ballot. After all, even if you do not participate others will and you, as a branch member, will be expected to abide by the majority result.

Nobody votes to take strike action lightly, but by far the simplest way to prevent action, as well as counter the demoralisation and burnout of staff trying to make ends meet, is for HE employers to recognise that staff are their key asset and offer a higher percentage increase that the education unions can recommend. Simple.

Way back to negotiations?

As your branch gets to grips with balloting, the balance of the inadequate national pay increase for 2023/24 (around 3% for most staff) will be imposed in this month’s pay packets. However the joint unions are aware that some divisions are opening up between the employers represented by UCEA, especially those managing institutions experiencing recruitment and retention difficulties.

Some institutions are finding local and ‘creative’ ways around the national negotiation impasse this year. A number of HE institutions have made one-off non-consolidated payments to their staff but these payments have led to staff, particularly at the lower end of the national pay spine, facing increased levels of tax and reductions in state benefits such as Universal Credit. The General Secretary of the TUC has now written to the Cabinet Office to complain about this practice in the public sector.  There have been other approaches to raising pay too. At least one institution has uplifted salaries by more than one increment, while another is reviewing their entire pay structure. There may be more institutions trying to find a way to improve pay prospects for their staff. Let us know if you become aware of any ideas being floated.

However, pressure from these kinds of developments may have helped indicate another way back to negotiations. After at least a decade of HE management claiming lack of funding as the explanation for their imposing severe real terms pay cuts, a closer examination of sector-wide funding is on the horizon. UCEA has agreed with the joint unions to open discussions on holding a financial review. What this might cover, how, and in what depth is not yet clear, nor whether this could help ease a necessary return to negotiations on 2023/24 pay.

Meanwhile, the joint unions have continued to suggest ways forward on pay-related matters including the outdated national pay spine that most HE staff pay is pegged to.