The facts on pay still look bleak to me

February 5, 2009

Jocelyn Prudence (Letters, 22 January) urges us to "examine the facts". I have worked at the University of Leeds for nearly 35 years and during that time, the job of raising a family has proved quite a struggle on wages held down by successive governments that saw the public sector as easy meat for pay freezes.

For my colleagues just joining the university in 2009, their living standards relative to their contemporaries seem worse than mine all those years ago. For University and College Union (UCU) members, the settlement of 2006 has provided a welcome degree of "catch-up", no more, after years of pay freezes. Latterly, however, we have seen the salaries of senior members of the university soar.

For the fat cats, the 2006 settlement was so poor that they found it necessary to give themselves two and sometimes three times more than that won through industrial action by "greedy" UCU members. Simultaneous with their enrichment has come a contempt for their lesser-paid "colleagues".

Sally Hunt (Letters, 29 January) is right to say that "in the current climate, the employers should be wary of exhorting staff to practise restraint while indulging in such excess themselves".

Who knows what awaits us in the coming months - anything from deflation to hyperinflation. UCU members need to keep their options open, and the employers' offer of 0 per cent certainly does not suggest that they have their employees' interests at heart.

In contrast, UCU members at Leeds and elsewhere are threatened with 100 per cent pay docking for "partial performance", when even Prudence accepts that industrial action is part of "modern industrial relations".

Thirty-five years on, I have to say that I find modern university management's brand of philistinism, hypocrisy and greed hard to take.

Malcolm Povey, University of Leeds.

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