Ranking every job in every university on a seniority scale of one to 1,000 could lead to the collapse of the national bargaining system, lecturers' leaders have warned.
The Association of University Teachers is resisting attempts to introduce a job evaluation system that grades all staff on factors such as responsibility for staff and budgets and then links their pay to that rating. Eight universities are piloting the scheme.
Such a system would pigeonhole staff crudely and undermine national pay bargaining by giving vice-chancellors too much local flexibility over pay, the AUT said.
The AUT stood alone among the higher education unions last month in rejecting a deal in the new joint negotiating committee (JNC) to proceed with the job evaluation plans. All the other unions accept the principle of job evaluation as it is needed to ensure equal pay for work of equal value. The AUT's refusal to sign up has angered its nine partner unions.
Employers and unions agreed to issue guidance that will recommend each university use a single role-analysis scheme to assess staff. They said trials of the employers' preferred scheme, Higher Education Role Analysis (Hera), should be completed quickly and "could be recommended".
The AUT refused to sign up to this part of the agreement, arguing that if job evaluation were introduced without an explicit link to a national job-grading arrangement, there would be "pay chaos". The AUT believes the scheme will allow vice-chancellors discretion in assigning different job "scores" to different job descriptions, meaning the role of a senior lecturer in one university could be much more senior, or junior, than the same role in other institutions.
Malcolm Keight, AUT assistant general secretary for employment, said: "The other academic unions are concerned to maintain national grading structures. However, they saw no risk in circulating detailed advice to institutions about implementing job evaluation schemes locally that were independent from nationally agreed grading structures."
The AUT has refused to commit to any locally applied scheme without national grading. It has also said that Hera is inappropriate because it fails to properly take into account the less tangible elements of scholarship.
Andrew Pike, a national universities official at Natfhe, said that Natfhe had secured commitments from the employers that the deal would be linked with national gradings.
Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, said: "We are disappointed that the AUT was not able to sign up."
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