UCU claim will not be swayed by pay review

Salary inquiry agreed as part of three-year deal, but union doubts its rigour. Melanie Newman reports

June 5, 2008

The University and College Union has warned that the independent review of university salaries this autumn will not have a "significant" influence over its pay claim for 2009-10.

The review was agreed as part of the 2006 three-year settlement to inform pay talks for 2009-10, but last week Malcolm Keight, the union's head of higher education, expressed doubts about its rigour.

Times Higher Education reported last week that the Government had declined to contribute towards the cost of the pay review because the UCU and employers had failed to agree new negotiating structures. Mr Keight said that this meant that "the quality and robustness of the review won't be as good as they would otherwise be".

He said: "It will provide valuable technical information but won't be a significant source of information to inform next year's pay round."

Last November, the UCU signed a letter to Bill Rammell, the Higher Education Minister, that said: "We commit to acceptance of the review's findings in full as an input to future negotiations."

A circular on the 2009 pay claim debated at the UCU's annual congress last week said it "was likely to be a very difficult pay round" and warned that institutions were "looking to present an unfavourable position of their finances" in advance of the Government's review of tuition fees, which is due to begin next year.

Last week, vice-chancellors warned that spiralling pay bills and higher pension costs could result in some institutions being unable to afford the 2008-09 pay rise, which will be matched to the retail price index measure of inflation, currently at 4.2 per cent.

The independent review is unlikely to be published until November. Mr Keight told Times Higher Education it was yet to be decided when the pay claim would be submitted, but it could be issued as early as this October.

Official pay talks between the Universities and Colleges Employers Association and support staff unions, under the new structures which so far exclude the UCU, are not due to begin until next March or April. A Ucea spokesman insisted that no talks would be held with any unions before then.

The spokesman said the pay review had never been dependent on government funding. "Suggestions that the review will not produce sufficient information for a pay claim are incorrect," he added. "The review is currently undertaking analyses of financial and remuneration data: there is a great deal of public information available."

UCU delegates agreed that the pay claim for August 2009 should include demands for the extension of the pay spine to professors, "catch-up" pay for academics at the top of their grades, the assimilation of hourly paid staff and the elimination of the gender pay gap.

melanie.newman@tlseducation.com.

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