Pay up and speak up 1

April 21, 2006

Your coverage of the pay dispute ("Local deals on cards as v-cs round on Ucea" and "Who will break first in the battle of the giants?", April 14) invites three comments. First, the employers should take no comfort from any supposed tactical differences between the Association of University Teachers and Natfhe. The tactical differences reported between the employers seem greater than any differences between the unions.

Whatever spin the employers engage in, Natfhe will act in concert with its AUT partners, including on the issue of whether or not action might be suspended prior to talks.

Second, I would reiterate Natfhe's (and the AUT's) opposition to local pay bargaining. Natfhe has seen the chaotic, wasteful and unfair results of local bargaining in further education. The AUT's research on local bargaining has shown quite clearly how it "gives rise to the potential for unequal and opaque ways of determining pay which may give rise to direct or indirect pay discrimination".

Third, the employers say they care about students. So do we. So, let the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association stand down its spin machine and decide that now is the time to settle this dispute with a pay award that really does recognise the enormous slippage in pay (except for vice-chancellors') that has occurred over the past two decades. There is a window of opportunity this month, and talks without preconditions should start at once. If they don't, it will inevitably oblige the AUT and Natfhe to step up the dispute.

Roger Kline

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