Congress says ‘no’ to notion of a little local lift

Motion to allow staff at better-off institutions to arrange extra pay voted down at UCU congress

June 5, 2014

Source: Getty

Not so fast: the proposal for more flexible pay bargaining was vetoed

University staff should be allowed to negotiate extra pay locally on top of any increases agreed nationally, a senior trade union leader has argued.

Randy Banks, president of the University of Essex’s University and College Union branch, called on the union’s annual congress to back a more flexible system of pay bargaining, in which individual union branches could seek to gain additional pay, holiday or bonuses as a means of “rewarding all staff equally for the success of their institution”.

In a motion backed by Essex’s UCU branch, Mr Banks said the current pay bargaining structure was failing many staff because “it sets pay levels at the maximum that can be afforded by financially weak institutions”.

Staff at “institutions who can afford to pay more” were prevented from receiving extra cash by the set-up, he said.

While the idea of locally negotiated pay deals has been suggested by university leaders, the prospect has generally been rejected by union heads, who believe that it would lead to more performance-related pay and lower increases than those achieved by collective bargaining.

However, speaking to Times Higher Education, Mr Banks said that his model would give staff the best of both systems: preserving a national pay spine but allowing financially successful institutions to top up pay for all their staff, rather than concentrating rewards in the hands of senior managers.

“We have followed the same strategy for many years, and it has proved to be a signal failure,” he said. “We achieved the best we could in the circumstances, but the settlement for this year and next is a long way from what we wanted.”

Having more flexible deals locally would lead to a “race to the top, not the bottom” as individual branches could point to enhanced deals available at other institutions, he added.

However, Mr Banks’ motion was rejected by union delegates by an overwhelming show of hands.

Jane Hardy, a delegate from the University of Hertfordshire, called the motion “dangerous and disingenuous” as it “purports to commit to national bargaining when it is the very opposite of it”.

“There would be vice-chancellors salivating at the prospect of this,” she said. “We do not want a system where staff are rewarded for the success of their institutions – there should not be a situation where it is the survival of the fittest.”

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

David Parkins Christmas illustration (22 December 2016)

A Dickensian tale, set in today’s university

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

man with frozen beard, Lake Louise, Canada

Australia also makes gains in list of most attractive English-speaking nations as US slips