Further to your report concerning Natfhe's attempts to secure agreement with the Association of University Teachers around a joint pay claim for academic staff (THES, December 1) the facts are as follows:
This year's national settlement for academic staff in the new universities and colleges of higher education provided for the same pay increase agreed for staff in the old universities (and for school teachers via their pay review body). Natfhe also secured an agreement from the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association to move forward negotiations in the next pay round so that they could take place at the same time as those for the old universities. This clearly opened up a real prospect of joint bargaining around a common claim.
Discussions with AUT earlier this month produced agreement around all the central elements of a claim including the need for pay increases substantially above inflation and proposals for the low paid, researchers and senior staff. The only stumbling block to concluding a common claim was AUT's insistence that its campaign for a pay review body had to be included in the claim.
While we favour an independent review of higher education staff pay, it is not currently Natfhe's policy to substitute a pay review body for collective bargaining and we propose a joint consultation exercise to establish consensus across higher education This was agreed but clearly could not be completed in time for the negotiating round. In the interests of having joint negotiations around a common claim we suggested therefore that AUT continue to pursue separately its policy for a pay review body which is not in any case in the employers' gift. Regrettably this was not acceptable.
Finally I would point out this is not a dispute between further and higher education trade unions. Natfhe's higher education sector has traditionally been more highly unionised than the old universities. Discounting AUT's academic related staff, membership numbers in the two unions among lecturers and senior academics in England and Wales are not far apart.