Under-pressure university and college fat cats finally put an improved pay offer on the table yesterday after months of walkouts by workers.
Campus unions will ballot their members over Easter on a 2 per cent rise offered by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association.
The breakthrough in the long-running dispute came at the latest round of talks on Monday. A marking boycott planned by academics' union UCU has been postponed until Tuesday May 6 as a result.
UCU president Simon Renton admitted "nobody thinks it is great.
"Universities aren't strictly in the public sector but employers have in recent years asserted that they were bound by the 1 per cent pay norm. We have broken that, so that in forthcoming years they cannot argue that is the case."
Bosses had refused to budge over imposing a fifth below-inflation pay offer that has seen workers' real pay slide by 13 per cent since 2009.
From clerks to cleaners and lecturers to lab assistants, the injustice has brought thousands of members of UCU, Unison, Unite and Scottish education union EIS onto the picket lines since October.
Southampton University UCU rep Eric Silverman was pleased their fight had secured at least a living wage for the lowest-paid workers.
"Those are the people who are really struggling," he said.
Unions and bosses are set to discuss action to end the gender pay gap in higher education and casualisation at a meeting next Thursday.
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