Price of pay freedom? 1

August 8, 2003

Your report that Imperial College London is being investigated by the Equal Opportunities Commission ("Imperial under fire on equality", THES , August 1) comes a week after Imperial joined the Russell Group in distancing itself from the proposed national pay framework.

The same report attracts attention to an apparent pattern of endemic bullying and harassment of female staff at Imperial.

It comes as no surprise to Natfhe that an institution apparently struggling to address issues of equality is also trying to break from national pay bargaining. The proposed national pay framework falls significantly short of what Natfhe believes a truly equitable pay system should look like.

Yet Imperial and some like-minded higher education institutions find even these proposals unacceptable. These, however, do no more than set some UK-wide ground rules to try to prevent the worst sort of local pay discrimination - which particularly affects female academics.

Imperial prefers to pursue local pay freedoms - but local "freedoms" on other equality issues have apparently led to discrimination. It would be interesting to know the wider equality record of other employers seeking to break from national pay bargaining.

No wonder higher education unions are determined to keep national pay grading arrangements as the core of any new academic pay arrangements.

Roger Kline
Head of universities
department Natfhe

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