Pay-spine paralysis

August 1, 2003

How can the Russell Group chairman say that the new national academic pay spine could cause difficulties because it "means that we cannot, without justification, pay someone who falls on a clear pay-spine point more" ("Elite 19 to set own pay agenda", THES, July 25)?

The whole idea of the framework agreement is to rid higher education of inequalities caused by back-door payments and benefits.

It does not stipulate that there cannot be premia for attracting and retaining staff - it merely clarifies the law on such payments and sets clear, equitable criteria.

Evidently, some universities would sooner leave the game and take the ball with them than operate in an equitable, open and transparent manner. We have proof of gender pay gaps, glass ceilings, disadvantaged disabled people and undervalued, underpaid staff. What more do we have to do?

A few universities are actively integrating equality and diversity commitments into policies and procedures. Some have exemplary equality policies and harmonised hours for all staff. Others have university-wide job evaluation systems. For those, I have nothing but praise.

But the funding councils must accept responsibility for equality in the sector and integrate equality audits into core criteria for funding. Hefce has a research project to look at equality. A good starting point would be to look at responses to the framework agreement.

To raise awareness about inequality, I suggest next time Russell Group members want a comfort break from Russell Hotel meetings, why not avoid the queue in the men's and pop next door? I guarantee the ladies' will be empty.

Maggie Martin
Chair, Unison Higher Education Service Group Executive

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