Local pay for local people? 1

March 4, 2010

I am not surprised by the questions raised by your article "Pressure grows on national bargaining" (25 February). Many of us in human resources have been warning about this for many years: during the Bett Inquiry in 1999, the Universities Personnel Association (now Universities Human Resources) warned about the tensions that would arise from managing pay rates and reform at the national level across a sector that even then covered a huge spectrum in terms of institutions' ability and willingness to pay.

But the sector failed to heed those warnings and did not learn from previous attempts to deliver improved working practices through national pay negotiations in the former polytechnics and the National Health Service.

Let us be clear: national pay bargaining, in the sense of an annual round to agree a basic cost-of-living increase, is not the villain here. Most universities could still live with it as long as they retained the ability to define local pay scales and rewards based on local resources and strategic priorities.

The funding crisis presents opportunities as well as threats, provided that institutions are prepared and able to reclaim control over their biggest controllable cost - pay - and to match reward systems to their long-term academic visions. Subcontracting these bits to national negotiations was seductive but flawed.

Larry Bunt, MD, Charter HR, and former chair, UPA.

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