UCU industrial action update

UCU industrial action update

Update issued May 23, 2023

Dear colleagues,

I previously updated you that UCU members at a national level narrowly voted against taking forward work on four separate pay-related topics - workload, employment contracts, pay gaps and the Higher Education pay spine - that form part of the national pay negotiations.

Earlier agreement of the detailed Terms of Reference for each area represented significant progress made following talks  mediated by Acas  between UCEA and the trade unions’ national negotiators.

UCEA wrote to the trade unions earlier this month, stressing a willingness to begin joint work on the topics and seeking a positive response by 18 May..

In national communications with their members, UCU suggested that UCEA’s correspondence to them is an indication that employers have walked away from negotiations on the topics. This is not the case; UCEA remains willing and ready to progress the joint work with the sector unions on pay gaps, contract types, workloads and the national pay spine.

UCU also highlighted to their members, a staff communication at the University of Cambridge, calling for UCEA to urgently resume negotiations with them.

UCEA has welcomed the call to return to negotiations on the pay-related topics, as reflected in their correspondence to the unions, and await the response from UCU and the other trade unions.

The correspondence at the University of Cambridge reflects the preference of all universities participating in the New Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff, including the University of Aberdeen, for work on the pay-related topics to commence. UCU, however, continue to call for negotiations on the pay offer to be re-opened. 

As outlined in earlier communications, negotiations on the 2023/34 pay offer were considered to have reached an impasse and employers were advised to take forward the pay uplifts in February 2023 and August 2023, with no prospect of re-opening negotiations on this aspect of the national pay dispute.

Nationally UCU continues to suggest the sector can afford to increase the pay offer.  This is not the case, with some universities having to delay implementation of the increase by 11 months due to affordability.  For the University of Aberdeen, the percentage increases are at the limit of affordability.

We remain hopeful that the joint work on the pay-related topics will commence. While we recognise the right for staff to take legal industrial action, we are increasingly concerned about the harmful impact of this on our students, and very much hope that the marking and assessment boycott will be suspended allowing discussions to begin at national level on workload, employment contracts, pay gaps and the Higher Education pay spine.

Meanwhile locally here in Aberdeen we are continuing constructive discussions with our recognised trade unions on these important matters of mutual concern.

Best wishes


Karl Leydecker

Senior Vice-Principal


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