AUT pay claims 'misleading'

March 26, 2004

Union bosses have been forced to retract the statement that they won a 12.2% wage hike. Phil Baty reports

Claims by the Association of University Teachers that its industrial action has achieved an increased pay offer of 12.2 per cent over two years are misleading, The Times Higher can reveal.

The lecturers' union has been forced to retract its claims after counter-statements from employers and sister unions - although the AUT maintains that the deal does offer a potential average increase of 12.2 per cent.

Employers have confirmed that the deal accepted by the AUT's leaders last week contained no additional money. Documents obtained by The Times Higher , meanwhile, show that Malcolm Keight, the AUT's assistant general secretary, has privately admitted that the 12.2 per cent figure the AUT is using "is, in fact, the average increase applied across all pay points".

Last week, after intensive Trades Union Congress-brokered talks between the AUT and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, the AUT released a statement saying that the union had secured new concessions from the employers. It said that these had been unanimously accepted by the union's strategic planning committee and would be recommended to delegates at the union's annual conference in Scarborough this week.

The statement said that the new proposals, set out in a memorandum of understanding between the two parties, would "ensure that AUT members receive an average increase of 12.2 per cent over the 2003-04 and 2004-05 academic years, compared with the currently proposed guaranteed increase of 6.44 per cent".

Ucea and lecturers' union Natfhe rebutted the AUT claims. Ucea said in a circular to vice-chancellors: "Please be assured that there is no extra additional money on the table."

Natfhe's statement said: "Our analysis of the offer shows there is no additional national increase whatsoever to AUT members."

After angry exchanges between the parties over the AUT's claims, Sally Hunt, the union's general secretary, this week conceded in a letter to Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary: "The memorandum of understanding... does not involve 'extra' monies to fund it beyond that already agreed with other unions."

What the AUT secured from the employers was a commitment to implement locally determined "no detriment" agreements, which should protect against losses in career earnings for AUT members faced with being moved on to the single pay spine. The new spine is longer than the current AUT spine, with increased annual pay increments.

The national pay rise on offer since last summer remains the same.

Employers have promised an average of 6.44 per cent over two years, with an average 1.2 per cent extra when staff are moved en masse to a single pay spine.

Employers had always allowed for a further 5 per cent average increase to the pay bill to take into account pay increases for individuals when staff undergo job-evaluation exercises. The exercises will set out roles and responsibilities and determine where staff are placed on the spine.

The AUT has withdrawn a statement on its website that said the 12.2 per cent figure represented an increase to the national pay offer, but stood by its claims that the deal offered a potential average increase of 12.2 per cent.

Ucea said in its briefing to vice-chancellors: "It would appear that the AUT's figures are based on particular favourable assumptions and interpretations of how 'no detriment' might be achieved." It said that it was up to vice-chancellors to make local no-detriment agreements.

Sources close to the deal suggested that no vice-chancellors would locally implement any deal that offered 12.2 per cent.

Natfhe is balloting its members on the original offer, with a recommendation to accept. The vote closes on March 26. The union has barely disguised its anger at the AUT's claims to have secured a far higher pay deal for its members, when, in fact, both unions are being offered the same pay rise. In a newsletter to members, Natfhe said: "The AUT has never sought any increase on the basic pay increase."

An email from Mr Keight revealed that the AUT failed to secure full national pay bargaining for academic-related members, such as librarians and technicians, which was at the heart of its dispute.

He said that while the AUT's strategic planning committee was satisfied that it could "positively promote" the pay proposal to union members "there was still serious concern about the provisions relating to academic-related grading".

Ms Hunt told The Times Higher : "We're the first to admit that this offer is not perfect and, of course, there has been much internal debate about its merits. Nonetheless, we believe it's a significant advance on what had previously been offered and, if implemented, will deliver substantial improvements on pay.

"The AUT has striven to present this offer fully and fairly - warts and all - to its membership. We have distributed, via email and the internet, the AUT's detailed assessment of the offer. We will put the details of the national agreement to the delegates at our annual conference so that they can decide what should be done."

  • The Educational Institute of Scotland is balloting its members on the original offer, with a recommendation to reject it.

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