The duck is still alive; so is UCU's mission

August 4, 2011

We do not accept that national bargaining is a "dead duck" (Leader, 28 July), although the employers' representatives' efforts to drive down staff pay in recent years have no doubt prompted some institutions to look at better rewards for their staff.

In fact, national bargaining makes a real difference on the ground to staff pay. In 2009-10, the average earnings for full-time academic staff working at universities not covered by the national agreement was £42,576. By contrast, full-time academic staff working at institutions governed by the national agreement earned £46,708. That is a positive difference of nearly 10 per cent.

I strongly support national bargaining, but the University and College Union will not simply ignore the fact that some institutions are considering their options.

The lesson from other sectors of the economy where unions have faced similar threats is clear. If trade unions fail to prepare properly to support their members in whatever environment they find themselves, it is members who suffer. We will never leave our members without the tools to defend themselves. Whatever happens in the coming review of the national bargaining machinery, institutions should be crystal clear that stepping away from the national table will make their lives harder, not easier, and it will certainly not make the UCU go away.

Sally Hunt, General secretary, University and College Union

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