HE pay ballot

What’s the ballot about?

What did you think of the latest higher education pay offer for 2021/2?

Not good enough. That’s what we think. A measly 1.5% pay rise – for the majority of staff – is all they think you’re worth. With inflation running at over 3%, this is a real terms pay cut. Plus the value of HE pay has fallen by over 17% in the last 12 years.

To add insult to injury, hard-working university staff are now facing a massive increase in living costs as they face a double whammy of rocketing gas and electricity prices as well as increasing national insurance payments of 1.25% from April 2022.

We can’t wait any longer, 1.5% isn’t going to cut it and we need to let them know now by standing together.

Vote YES to strike for the pay you deserve.

When vice-chancellors say they want to prevent redundancies and use that as an excuse to not pay HE staff what they deserve we say that’s not good enough.

Why is it that universities can afford a record rise in the number of people being paid over £100k? If they can afford that, they can afford to pay a fair wage that HE staff deserve after more than a year of exceptionally hard work and dedication through the pandemic – and through more than a decade of derisory pay rises.

A ballot paper will be sent to your home address and UNISON recommends that you vote YES to strike for the pay you deserve.

Remember to make sure your vote is returned in good time before the ballot closes – there are different dates depending on whether you live in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland. Check the FAQs below for details where you are.

Some members are also being balloted on their USS pension. Find out more on the USS campaign page.

Check your pay

With most people facing a massive increase in living costs now is the time fight for a proper pay increase.

Use our pay calculator to see how much pay you’ve lost over the last twelve years.


FAQs for members

Who is being asked to vote for strike action on the pay offer?

All HE branches were asked if they wanted be included in a ballot against the pay offer that came into effect on 1 August 2021.

Branches covering 37 universities opted to run ballots for strike action against the pay offer.

If you work for one of the universities on the list below, then you are going to be sent a postal ballot:

Arts University Bournemouth
Bath Spa University
Birkbeck College
Bournemouth University
City University
Edinburgh Napier University
Glasgow Caledonian University
Kings College London
London School Economics and Political Science
Manchester Metro University
Nottingham Trent University
Queen Margaret University
Queen Mary University of London
Robert Gordon University
SOAS University of London
Solent University
St Mary’s University College, Belfast
Staffordshire University
Trinity Laban
University of Aberdeen
University West of Scotland
University College London
University of Bedfordshire
University Of Brighton
University of Edinburgh
University of Gloucestershire
University of Greenwich
University of Huddersfield
University of Leeds
University of Manchester
University of Oxford
University of Sheffield
University Of Southampton
University of Strathclyde
University of Sussex
University of West London
University of Winchester

This ballot covers staff employed directly by the university who are covered by national HE pay bargaining for the year 2021/22.

If you work for a students’ union, arms-length company or private contractor then you won’t be balloted but you can still show support to your colleagues who are voting to take action.

Why aren’t all universities being balloted?

In previous years UNISON has run a single national aggregated ballot in higher education pay disputes.

UNISON HE conference policy changed this to running ‘disaggregated’ ballots at a local employer level.

Branches were asked if they wished to run local ballots for action.

When does the pay ballot open and how long is it open for?

There are different ballot dates depending on where you live.

  • In England the ballot runs from 6 December 2021 – 28 January 2022
  • In Scotland the ballot runs from 6 December 2021 – 28 January 2022
  • In Northern Ireland the ballot runs from 6 December 2021 – 9 February 2022

How do I vote?

You will receive a ballot paper, sent to your home address. To vote you’ll need to complete the ballot paper and return it in the freepost envelope provided.

Look out for your envelope containing your vote – it looks like this:

How about taking a selfie when you pop your vote in the post box? You could share it on your social media using the hashtag #NotGoodEnough.

It’s so important that every member uses their vote so make sure your colleagues know about the ballot too!

Is my vote anonymous?

Yes. No-one knows how you voted but you. The ballot is run for UNISON by an independent body called Civica Election Services (CES), formerly the Electoral Reform Society.

What if I haven’t received my ballot paper?

Call UNISON Direct on 0800 0 857 857. They will verify your membership and contact CES to issue you with a replacement ballot paper.

The ballot hotline is open from:

  • 5 January to 12pm on 24 January 2022 for the England ballots
  • 5 January to 12pm on 24 January 2022 for the Scotland ballots
  • 5 January to 12pm on 24 January 2022 for the Northern Ireland ballot

I don’t seem to be receiving emails from UNISON – how can I check you have the right contact details?

It’s so important that we have an up to date email address, phone number and home address for all our members. That means we can get in touch with you about issues that affect your job, like this pay ballot.

You can check and update your details and the permissions you give UNISON to contact you using MyUNISON.

Update my details

If you haven’t yet registered on MyUNISON you can register here.

I’m not a member of UNISON – if I join will I get a vote?

Yes. If you join UNISON by Monday 17 January you’ll get a vote in this ballot.

Why are you running a pay ballot?

On 1 August 2021 the university employers imposed a pay offer.

UNISON members were consulted and voted to reject the pay offer.

UNISON believes that members working in higher education deserve better – you deserve a decent pay rise for the past year. That’s why UNISON’s Higher Education Service Group Executive decided to ask branches to participate in the ballots. And that’s why we’re asking you, our members, to vote for strike action.

A vote for action will send a strong message, to your employer and to the national higher education employers, to get back round the table to negotiate a fair and decent pay rise for the past year. By standing together and taking voting to take action employers will realise that they can’t continue to take their staff for granted.

When will I find out the results?

  • In England your branch will be informed of the results after the vote closes on 28 January 2022.
  • In Scotland your branch will be informed of the results after the vote closes on 28 January 2022.
  • In Northern Ireland your branch will be informed of the results after the vote closes on 9 February 2022.

Your branch will be able to inform you of the results.

What will the next steps be if a majority vote to strike?

UNISON’s higher education service group executive (HE SGE) will meet to consider the outcome of the ballots to decide how best to take the campaign forward and to provide national coordination for action. Branches will be kept informed and involved in these decisions.