Industrial action is not the way forward, say university leaders

19 November 2019

​Industrial action is not the way forward, say university leaders

University leaders have written an open letter to all staff at the institutions where the University and College Union (UCU) is planning industrial action.

In the letter, the University and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) and Universities UK (UUK) – the respective lead bodies on pay and pensions – say that they continue to talk to the union about finding a way forward which avoids industrial action.

UCEA and UUK explain why they do not agree with UCU's claims that they have been "forced" to take industrial action and outline the various steps employers have taken to protect the value of pay and pensions for staff.

On pay, increases of between 3.65% and 1.8% have been implemented from August 2019.

On USS pensions, employers have recently increased their contributions to 21.1% of salary (from 18%) to protect current benefits, with members paying 9.6% of salary up from 8%.

Professor Mark E. Smith, Chair of UCEA, said: "The universities represented in both these sets of negotiations have shown that they place a high value on their employees and have increased their investment in both pay and pensions to continue to offer fair pay and excellent pensions benefits as part of a national, sector-wide framework.

"We continue to talk to the union in the hope of finding a way of averting industrial action. We respectfully ask UCU, and its members, to reconsider whether the proposed action is the best approach to expressing and addressing their concerns."

Professor Julia Buckingham, President of Universities UK, said: "In recent months, employers have taken significant steps to protect the value of both pensions and pay because we care about our dedicated and talented staff.

"Universities will do all they can to minimise the impact of any strike action on students, their other staff and the wider community and they know that their colleagues contemplating strike action will want this too.  We sincerely hope UCU will see the merit in working with employers on joint and fair solutions."


  1. UCU has announced 8 days of strike action at 60 universities from Monday 25 November – 4 December.

  2. The two disputes (pay and pensions) are legally separate and held by UCU on a disaggregate basis with each employers, however this is a joint letter from UCEA and UUK – the respective lead bodies on pay and pensions for the employers – to staff in affected institutions.

  3. Universities UK represents 340 employers on USS:

  4. UCEA represented 147 of its members in the New JNCHES national pay negotiations for 2019-20 – see

Our team

Steven Jefferies

Steven Jefferies

Head of Media
Universities UK

Eloise Phillips

Eloise Phillips

Media Officer
Universities UK

Clara Plackett

Clara Plackett

Senior Media Officer
Universities UK



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