AUT and employers square up over pay

December 5, 2003

  • AUT is 'promulgating completely wrong information' about the pay offer
  • Ucea 'published disingenuous clAIMS' about 20 per cent pay rises
  • AUT's clAIMS are a 'deliberate strategy' to bolster support for strikes

Employers have accused the Association of University Teachers of misleading their members with scare stories designed to alarm academics into industrial action over pay.

Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association, said this week that the AUT was "promulgating completely wrong information" about the implications of the pay offer and the planned reform of pay structures.

The AUT responded saying it was "astounded" by the Ucea statement.

Ms Prudence said that the AUT's clAIMS that academics could lose £17,300 during their career under the deal, and that one in six academic-related members of staff faced having their jobs downgraded under the new pay structures, were "just wrong".

Ms Prudence said she could only assume that the AUT's public clAIMS were part of a "deliberate strategy" to bolster support among reluctant academics for a painful campaign of industrial action, when the real sticking point of talks between the Ucea and the AUT was about the status of the AUT's academic-related members, such as librarians and computer specialists.

As The THES reported last month, talks between the AUT and Ucea have fundamentally broken down over this issue. Academic-related members make up about a quarter of the AUT's 45,000 membership.

The deal offers an average 7.7 per cent pay rise over two years in return for the biggest shake-up of career structures for 40 years. All staff would be moved onto a single pay spine from next year after they had undergone formal "job evaluation" exercises to determine where they would be placed on the new scale.

But while a series of national "role profiles" is to be developed for all academic staff - to ensure that their pay is largely determined nationally and remains similar across all institutions - all academic-related staff will be left to negotiate their pay locally.

The AUT warned that securing national bargaining for its academic-related members was "non-negotiable" and it would reject the entire deal and move for industrial action without it. But the employers will not budge and are backed by public sector union Unison, which represents academic-related members in post-92 universities and has accepted the deal as its stands.

Ms Prudence said: "The AUT seems set on provoking its membership by promulgating what we consider to be completely wrong information about the effects of the new pay framework. In the absence of any other explanation, I can only assume this is a deliberate strategy to alarm its academic members into supporting its concerns about academic-related staff not having role profiles developed nationally.

"I think the AUT needs to conduct a serious risk-benefit analysis of its campaign approach - it seems to me that it would be dishonest to recommend industrial action based on this information."

The AUT, which will hold an executive meeting this week that is likely to formally reject the pay offer and initiate moves towards a ballot for industrial action, vehemently denied Ucea's clAIMS.

Malcolm Keight, assistant general secretary of the AUT, said: "The AUT stands by all its figures. We are absolutely astounded that Ucea would have the temerity to accuse us of putting out misleading information, particularly as it published disingenuous clAIMS, in October, about some lecturers getting pay rises of 20 per cent next year. These clAIMS were based on a mythical person who does not exist anywhere within the university system.

"If the package Ucea is pushing was as wonderful as it clAIMS, we would have no hesitation in recommending it to our members at all."

Meanwhile, the AUT accused Ucea of negotiating in bad faith after a Ucea briefing paper for university heads and human resources directors appeared to be encouraging them to initiate local agreements.

The circular, sent out last month, says that because there is no agreement with the academic unions over the national pay deal, institutions should not implement the pay increases for academic staff.

But it says: "There could be exceptions to this in cases where, in local negotiations, universities and colleges can secure their academic union's agreement to all aspects of the framework."

Mr Keight said: "On the one hand, it clAIMS it is trying to preserve national bargaining, while, on the other, it is secretly encouraging vice-chancellors and personnel directors to initiate localised agreements."


  • The AUT said that academics could be £17,300 worse off over nine years, as their pay is eroded under the new arrangements, while academic-related staff could lose £46,000 over 21 years. It said: "If annual increments are reduced by 0.75 per cent to 2.5 percentage points and more points are added to pay scales, it stands to reason that the total amount received over a given period of pay progression will be reduced. This is demonstrated and quantified in the figures that are available on the AUT's website."
  • Ucea said: "Our analysis shows that these individuals would in fact gain £8,900 over that period if present promotion patterns continue. The AUT reaches its alarming conclusion by assuming arbitrarily that universities would start deferring deserved promotions by five years. That would be an excellent recipe for losing good-quality staff. More interestingly, under the terms of the framework agreement such a perverse change in progression arrangements would need to be agreed with the AUT locally. If there were any basis to (this), why has it taken them four months to bring it to our attention, why not bring it up during the negotiations in July?"
  • The AUT said that up to one in six academic-related staff could have their jobs "downgraded" as roles are evaluated locally and moved onto a single pay spine. This was based on a job evaluation exercise being carried out in one unnamed institution.
  • Ucea said: "The review of the grading of academic-related staff in the university concerned is ongoing. To date, more than one in six (17.8 per cent) have been upgraded and six staff (2.8 per cent, or one in 36) have had their posts downgraded ('red-circled') but will continue in those posts with protected pay."

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