Come to the table

January 20, 2006

Which parallel universe do employers inhabit ("20% or it's chaos, unions vow", January 13)?

In most years, the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association consults its members on the possible pay rises before it has seen the unions' claim and makes an offer on the day the claim is presented. This year, we handed over the outline claim in October in time to avoid all new income being allocated elsewhere.

The employers' response on January 10 was no offer at all. Which part of "substantial pay increases to close the gap" do they not understand? Each union stressed that we wanted to negotiate and that there would be a window of opportunity for a satisfactory offer to be made before we began industrial action. The claim might require the use of half the top-up fee income but certainly not half of all the new income streams into the sector.

The employers have made it clear that they have given no commitment to spending a third of new income on pay rises. Although they are now willing to consult subscribers on the principle of "keep-up" and "catch-up" pay, there is no signal that this would be anything more than a recasting of the unacceptably low figures of previous years.

So who is it that is really unwilling to negotiate?

Jill Jones
Natfhe Higher Education Committee

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