Low pay, high morals 1

March 31, 2006

While I certainly agree that the attempted exclusion of union representatives from the pay negotiations on March 28 makes no sense, I find it much harder to see how the Universities and Colleges Employers'

Association has attained any moral "high ground" ("Heels dig in all round", March 24).

The dispute has arisen because Ucea failed to honour clear promises on academics' pay, and the sight of it trying to disown these promises now that we have reached the position where money is finally available to honour them is neither an edifying nor, sadly, a surprising one. Matt Grainger's letter (March 24), apart from being misguided, fails to explain why his organisation suddenly decided academics are not underpaid after many years of acknowledging that we were but saying they could not afford to pay what we were worth; this initial message was given to Government as well as ourselves.

Ucea is keen to pretend that there has not been a long history to this dispute. We have accepted pay rises that have allowed our pay to continue to be eroded in recent years because of promises to rectify the position once fee income became available, coupled with our reluctance to harm students. As far as the moral high ground is concerned, I regard myself as peering downwards from it trying to discern Ucea in the murk far below.

Philip Bell

Manchester University

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