Hunt blames rigid talks for prolonging pay agony

June 9, 2006

As the dispute ends, the joint leader of the new UCU calls for shake-up of the national negotiating system for academic salaries. Phil Baty reports

Sally Hunt, the joint head of the new University and College Union, this week called for a root-and-branch review of the national pay-negotiating system, which she blamed for prolonging the pay dispute.

In her first significant interview as joint general secretary of the UCU, Ms Hunt told The Times Higher that the inflexibility of the current system for negotiating salaries had prevented an early settlement of the dispute.

And, in comments that are bound to cause tensions with her colleagues in the unions that represent non-academic staff on campus, she said that academics were losing out by negotiating their pay alongside support staff such as porters.

Ms Hunt, who takes charge of higher education in the UCU, said the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association, which represents vice-chancellors in pay talks, was in need of reform because it did not represent a sufficiently broad spectrum of university employers and because university governors had too big a voice in the association.

"I have a big question mark about whether Ucea consults its members properly, and I think (it does) not," she said.

"I have big questions about a Ucea board top heavy with people who do not have to carry the can for their decisions and on which big institutions are notable for not being represented.

"I also have big questions about where the hell Universities UK have been in this dispute. They have been hiding, which is not on. They have to decide who they want to be bargaining on their behalf.

"There has to be a serious root-and-branch review of what's gone on. We have to deal with the structure we are asked to deal with - but the structure at the moment is not fit for purpose."

Ms Hunt was also critical of the mechanisms of national pay negotiation.

Pay is negotiated by the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff, which includes members of the seven trade unions representing staff working in universities and members of Ucea. The academic and non-academic unions have separate negotiating tables within the JNCHES but all are offered the same overall pay deal.

Ms Hunt believes that this is in effect single-table bargaining, which allows employers to play non-academic and academic unions off against each other.

"You can't have a situation where everything has to be at the lowest common denominator and where academic and related staff must not dare to ask for what is right and proper for them. It is used as an implicit threat," she said.

"We need more flexibility, and we need to recognise the differences between staff groups and that we need to have separate national bargaining arrangements for academic and related staff."


Hunt on the action

'I have a big question mark about whether Ucea consults its members properly, and I think it does not'

'I have big questions about where the hell UUK has been in this dispute. They have been hiding, which is not on. They have to decide who they want to be bargaining on their behalf'

'We have to deal with the structure we are asked to deal with - but the structure at the moment is not fit for its purpose"

phil.baty@thes.co.uk

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 3 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
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments