Lead by example

March 11, 2010

Why should University of Sheffield staff consider short weeks and unpaid annual leave to generate savings without knowing the outcome of national pay talks? ("Short weeks or unpaid leave proposed to reduce wage bill", 4 March.)

The higher education staff unions are not expected to submit their joint pay claim to the Universities and Colleges Employers Association until the end of the month. Since inflation is projected to rise to more than 3 per cent by August, staff will expect a higher pay settlement than the one implemented this past year.

Moreover, the message to Sheffield staff is that they can save their jobs if they make pay concessions. Yet in 2009, when staff in the sector received a pay increase of just 0.5 per cent, universities across the country were closing courses and announcing redundancies.

Instead of targeting lecturers plus academic-related and support staff lower down the pay scale, universities should review their pay-and-reward policies for mid-level and senior managers who receive lucrative salaries, generous private health provision and pension benefits.

To identify savings, universities should examine their procurement practices, their expenditure on various overheads and their use of external consultants to provide services.

Above all, job security needs to be discussed by Ucea and the campus unions. We need a national agreement that covers the measures universities can take to avoid redundancies. Such an agreement would provide an alternative to the ad hoc and apparently panic-driven proposals announced by Sheffield.

Ronald Mendel, University and College Union branch secretary, University of Northampton.

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