The UCU higher education sector conference focused on our current national pay claim, workload and redundancies. It also addressed issues of governance, bullying, funding, casualisation and privatisation.
In the run up to congress, UCU had entered into negotiations with the employers and the other unions in the so-called New JNCHES (joint national committee of higher education) process.
All the unions in HE submitted a single pay claim. The employers’ response was to offer an insulting 0.4 percent pay rise. All the unions rejected this offer.
The employers also refused to offer any guarantee over jobs. In response the UCU had little choice but to ballot for industrial action.
Unfortunately the Higher Education Committee of UCU’s National Executive suspended the ballot before it could be completed—having been told that it could not continue for technical reasons. This formed the background to the pay debate at conference.
In the likely event of no improved offer from the employers and no guarantee on jobs, conference decided to reballot early next term.
It was agreed that the united response of the unions in making their claim—and jointly rejecting the employers’ offer – was positive.
There was debate over the 8 percent pay claim, with some feeling that this was too big a headline figure to hold in a recession when the retail price index of inflation is falling.
However, because the claim is now a joint one, the actual figure claimed will depend on agreement between all the unions.