Fair pay and fairy stories

July 4, 1997

YOUR readers must be fascinated with the story of Higher Education Role Analysis (THES, June ). It has everything: 1970s trade union bluster from Alan Carr of the Association of University Teachers. Mike Roberts of the outgoing Association of University and College Lecturers clinging obsequiously to his coat-tails; heroic employers bravely struggling to treat staff equitably; and fairy godfather Dearing about to burst on stage.

Unfortunately Mr Roberts has lost his script. The recent work, funded by the University and Colleges Employers Association, which demonstrated to Dearing the pay gap between higher education and the rest of the economy, used a form of job evaluation to ensure comparison of like with like. Since Mr Roberts liked the outcome, he must approve the process and thus, for him, job evaluation must be a good thing.

Mr Carr has lost his whole library. He cannot find anything between the Equal Pay Act 1970, Article 119 of the Treaty of Rome and the report of the decision of the European Court of Justice in Enderby v. Frenchay Health Authority. To catch up he could do worse than study the Equal Opportunities Commission's Code of Practice on Equal Pay (January 1997). These all point to a requirement for each employer to ensure that all staff, not just professionals, are paid in accordance with equal pay for work of equal value. That is why Hera is designed for all staff in universities and colleges and has satisfied the Equal Opportunities Commission as to its validity.

AUT and AUCL are small unions without wide experience in industrial relations and represent only 17 per cent of academics. Perhaps this is why they have adopted such an old-fashioned, factional approach. The more capable, pragmatic, general unions like GMB, MSF, T&G and Unison have all decided to join in the pilot-testing of Hera without preconditions.

There is no plan "to provide a defence against even justified equal pay claims", or "to introduce discrimination-prone distinctions into pay structures", or "to promise local pay determination". These accusations are just fairy stories but there is still time for the ugly sisters to come to our ball.

S. P. Rouse

Chief executive, UCEA

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