Let's have pay peace 1

July 13, 2007

I would consider myself to be among the "sensible people", described by outgoing Universities and Colleges Employers Association chair Alasdair Smith ("We must sit around a single table", Opinions, July 6), who do not want a repeat of the highly disruptive pay dispute of last year. However, sideswipes at the union and threats of "agree or else" are unlikely to achieve the good industrial relations the sector so badly needs.

I have said many times that Ucea's credibility rests on being able to speak with authority for those it represents. Yet many in the sector will be appalled to read the highly inflammatory and macho tone of Smith and Bill Wakeham ("National pay agreement is at risk, say employers", July 6), which seems designed to create a dispute where none yet exists.

University and College Union members will also be incredulous to see Ucea taking credit for recent pay advances. It is true that the deal agreed last year and the modernisation reached in 2004 have delivered some pay gains, especially when compared with other public workers, but why, in both cases, did it take major national disputes before employers were prepared to improve their offers?

If Ucea really wants to invest in university staff, why is it we always have to drag them kicking and screaming towards a fair settlement?

UCU remains committed to national bargaining as the most efficient way to agree pay and conditions. The alternative for both unions and management is more local resources expended, more local inequality, more local disputes and less stability in the academic labour market, which is vital to our sector's future wellbeing.

Sally Hunt
General secretary, UCU

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