National disputes in Higher Education: Pay/working conditions and USS Pensions.
UCU members at over 150 UK Higher Education institutions are being reballoted so that we can continue industrial action in these two national disputes after mid-April if required. This is because UK law limits any single mandate for industrial action to 6 months, and the current ones expire in mid-April 2023. The reballots are open from 21 February to 31 March 2023.
Remember: UK law requires all ballots/reballots on industrial action to be run as POSTAL BALLOTS. The only way to legally vote on industrial action is by posting a paper ballot. So look out for yours (two ballots in a single white envelope marked UCU) and post them back as soon as possible (in the single stamped envelope provided).

***This page will be updated regularly throughout the ballot period. Use it to stay informed and share the link with your friends and colleagues**


UCU Rising‘ is a UK-wide fight to secure a fair employment deal for everyone in the Higher Education sector and defend the USS pension scheme from unwarranted attack. Last October UCU members secured a remarkable mandate for nationwide industrial action. This connected members from over 150 HE institutions and has allowed us to build a collective action with the potential to secure real, tangible benefits for members and to produce a fundamental and positive shift in the trajectory of our work and workplaces – here at Exeter, and for colleagues right across the UK.

UCU’s strike action is paused until 15 March while negotiations continue in both disputes. Nobody should be in any doubt: it is this strike action – and the threat of future strike action – which has secured the progress made so far.

UK law, which is pretty hostile to industrial action, makes VOTING a critical tool in these disputes. Employers are well aware that UCU’s current mandate for industrial action runs out in mid-April, and they will use this to their advantage in the current negotiations. This reballot is therefore an absolutely critical moment for every UCU member: it is our opportunity to show our national negotiators that we have their backs, and it is our opportunity to show our employers that they cannot avoid meeting our demands by delaying until the current mandate runs out.

By voting in the reballot, each UCU member can help secure a national deal on pay, casualisation, equality and workloads, and a national deal on the USS pension scheme.

Voting strengthens UCU’s negotiating hand to get a better deal. And the better the deal, the less likely we will need to resort to industrial action to protect our rights next year, or subsquently.


UCU has raised national disputes with the two organisations representing employers (i.e. both the University of Exeter and many other Higher Education Institutions across the UK): UCEA (for pay/working conditions) and UUK (for USS pensions).

a)Pay/working conditions dispute: this is about reversing over a decade of real-terms pay cuts (25% and counting since 2009) and getting HE employers to agree to long-overdue national frameworks to combat widespread problems with casualisation, workloads and inequality.
-employers are currently still refusing to reopen 2022/23 pay offer imposed last year. UCEA has recently announced that employers have also decided to impose their 2023/24 pay offer, despite this offer being firmly rejected by all five unions involved in negotiations. There has been some progress towards agreement on: reviewing national spine points; improvements in some areas of casualised employment practice. UCU’s negotiators need every UCU member’s vote to help build on these positive signs (and reverse the negative ones) in the next phase of the dispute.
-for reference, members can check where UCU’s negotiations with UCEA had got to back in early 2020 before COVID forced UCU to suspend strike action, including work towards agreeing national frameworks on casualisation, pay gaps and workloads:

b)USS pensions dispute: this is about reversing the unjustified cuts of April 2022 and restoring a measure of financial sanity to the USS pension valuation process. UCU’s arguments have now been entirely vindicated by official data from USS itself, and employers owe it to everyone invested in the scheme to work with UCU to rectify the damage as quickly as possible.
-UUK has been forced to make some public concessions: the recent interim joint statement between UUK and UCU prioritises the improvement of benefits for the 2023 valuation. It commits to working together for moderately prudent valuations and long-term solutions to risk management. It commits to working in partnership on governance reform. However there is still more to do. UUK has yet to commit to maintaining covenant support, and they have yet to commit to fully restore benefits and to support recovery of lost benefits. UUK could commit to all these points but are stalling. If we are going to complete the timeline to schedule UUK needs to commit to both covenant support and complete restoration of 2021 benefits. UCU’s negotiators need every UCU member’s vote to help secure this.
-UCU’s pressure on UUK has had a definite impact on USS Trustee behaviour too. Since our last Get The Vote Out campaign, USS CEO Bill Galvin has stood down, and USS has committed to carrying out the 2023 valuation in just one year to be able to restore benefits in April 2024. USS has also set up a dedicated technical forum with UCU, UUK, the USS Trustee and Executive and all their actuaries to scrutinise their assumptions for this valuation. In February USS announced that benefits can likely be restored for a cost of 25.2% or less (we are currently paying 31.4% for cut benefits). USS is also exploring ways to recover benefits lost since 2022, and is already estimating how excess surplus at a 2023 valuation could augment recovery of lost benefits. This is significant progress and would have been impossible without the huge mandate from UCU members. That mandate must now be extended via the reballot.

***Remember: UK law requires all ballots for industrial action to be conducted BY POST***
22 February: ballots start arriving at members’ preferred mailing address (check at MyUCU)
-Your ballots will arrive in a single envelope LIKE THIS. Both ballots are posted back in the same envelope.
28 February: replacement ballot system opens. Click here if you need a replacement ballot to be sent (and if you need to change your address in the process)
23 March: deadline to register as a new member and be automatically included in ballot (23.59)
23 March: deadline for branches to submit ballot exclusions (23.59)
26 March: replacement ballot system closes (23.59)
28 March: last ‘safe’ posting day
31 March: ballot closes (17.00)

We will be running a number of events throughout the ballot period, including:

6 March: open meeting with UCU General Secretary Jo Grady, 11.00-11.45 (details to be confirmed via email)
6 March: branch meeting, to follow the above (details to be confirmed via email)

We are also planning to offer smaller meetings within Professional Services and across different departments and our three campuses. Committee reps and other volunteers will be in touch directly with the relevant members to organise these.

-Vote early, and let UCU know that you have voted VIA THIS FORM
-If you are unable to use this form, please email our Branch Secretary Brian Rappert ( to confirm your vote instead
-Volunteer to help the Get The Vote Out team. The committee needs help from our membership in order to mount an effective GTVO campaign. You can contact the committee via email at

-From Tuesday 28 February you can request replacement ballots VIA THIS FORM
-If you are unlucky enough to experience problems getting hold of your ballots, or have any other issues with the voting process, please let the Exeter GTVO team know via the Branch Secretary email account:
-You can also email or any individual committee member for advice

UCU is asking you to vote YES to strike action and action short of a strike, but of course this is up to each member personally. Whether or not you support the proposed industrial action, the most important single thing you can do as a member is VOTE. As with the October 2022 ballots, both reballots are being run as aggregated ballots. This means that any result will be binding on members at EVERY SINGLE UK BRANCH, covering over 150 HE institutions in total.
Voting confirmation as a negotiating tactic
UCU would much prefer to conclude negotiations with our employer representatives (UCEA and UUK) rather than take further industrial action. It is hoped that the threat of another aggregated ballot leading to further nationwide industrial action will help convince employers to reach a deal via the negotiating table before this new mandate is required. YOU CAN HELP CREATE THE CONDITIONS FOR POSITIVE NEGOTIATIONS:
Vote as soon as you receive your ballots
Confirm that you have voted VIA THIS FORM
UK-wide data on voting numbers can be an important negotiating tool even while the ballots are ongoing. PLEASE VOTE EARLY AND TELL US THAT YOU HAVE VOTED.

***Even if you are not a member of the USS scheme, please support your colleagues who are by voting in this ballot. Anyone at Exeter eligible to vote in the pay/working conditions ballot is also eligible to vote in the USS pensions ballot, regardless of their individual pension status.***

-Please get in touch with our Exeter GTVO team via the Branch Secretary email account:
-You can also email or any individual committee member. We are here to help.