Benefits of pay offer don't add up 1

May 26, 2006

In a week when the employers have been accused of conveying "exactly the opposite of the truth" by the chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee and the media have urged them to offer a more reasonable deal to catch up on pay, they respond by apparently closing ranks and stating that no more is on offer and that the unions should put the deal to members ("Weary Ucea set to pull offer", May 19).

The miserable offer of 3.5 per cent in cash terms in each of the next three years is totally beyond the democratic mandate of either academic union to consult on or accept, since it barely touches the need for catch-up in pay. At Natfhe we have had no requests from members to put the offer to them. Catch-up in pay - the core issue this year - is resolvable with the new income streams coming into higher education, including top-up fees. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for an offer to substantially start this process.

Universities will have had nearly £1 billion by this August for the costs of the Framework Agreement - which is about putting pay relativities on an "equal pay for work of equal value" basis within the sector but does not address overall low pay levels. Yet the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association uses this as an excuse for the unaffordability of proper offers each year. The £1 billion has been squandered on dodgy human resources initiatives and expansion of HR departments. Most Natfhe members (those at the top of the senior lecturer scale) will gain only 0.33 per cent when they are transferred to the new pay spine.

Local bargaining is a waste of resources. We are in a national/international labour market so it makes no sense.

Let's hope Ucea now reflects and sees sense - we have no desire to hurt students. Ucea should have started negotiations last year to avoid the current situation. It has much to answer for.

Jill Jones

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