Pay talks not lectures

January 29, 2009

Jocelyn Prudence's latest attack on the University and College Union simply must be responded to (Letters, 22 January). It has taken the Universities and Colleges Employers Association ten months to finally agree to go to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service for talks with the UCU. Speculating publicly on the reasons for its delay is futile. Let us just be glad that we may at least be talking now.

Prudence and Ucea chair Bill Wakeham have also said it is far too early to talk about this year's pay rise. But it is seemingly not too early for some employers to be promoting the idea of a "pay freeze" or zero per cent rises, as they have been doing in the pages of Times Higher Education in recent months.

UCU members have also expressed their dissatisfaction to me about Ucea's concentration on the lazy headline figure of an 8 per cent pay rise in our claim. The claim also makes clear calls for decent pay for hourly paid staff and the need to close the gender pay gap. Why do they continue to remain silent on the other important aspects such as the equality agenda?

Indeed, the credibility of lectures on pay restraint surely depends on who is at the lectern. Wakeham, who says UCU's pay claim is "unrealistic", has seen his own salary as vice-chancellor of the University of Southampton increase by £44,000 to £240,000 in the past two years, a staggering rise of 22 per cent.

In the current climate, the employers should be wary of exhorting staff to practise restraint while indulging in such excess themselves.

Sally Hunt

General secretary, University and College Union.

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