You report that Stephen Rouse, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association, expressed surprise at the robust rejection by the unions, AUCL and Natfhe, of the recent 2.5 per cent pay offer to lecturers in the new universities and colleges (THES, June 16). His reaction is disingenuous for he and his colleagues can have expected nothing less.
In its recent submission to the Public Expenditure Survey, the CVCP cited the staff as the universities' most important asset, highlighted the severe decline in the relative pay of lecturers, praised productivity gains, emphasised the need for "new blood" posts, and expressed the desire to improve the career prospects of research staff.
In stark contrast, a few weeks later the CVCP's salaries negotiating arm the UCEA, offered lecturers a pay increase 0.9 per cent less than the current retail price index and 0.2 per cent less than the rises agreed for staff in the old and Scottish new universities at a time of rising inflation. Responding to other matters in the unions' joint pay claim the UCEA inter alia:
* rejected consolidation of last years' Pounds 90 lump sum on cost grounds * dismissed improvements to a starting salary of Pounds 12,756 since it gave "flexibility" (NB good honours school teachers start at Pounds 13,350) * blocked discussion on improvements to research pay and conditions saying research activity would be reduced
* made insulting remarks about the status and role of promoted staff in the "new" universities compared with the "old".
The UCEA can have expected little other than a dusty response, plus a strong suspicion that the employers seek to precipitate a breakdown in negotiations.
Once again collective bargaining seems set to offer little to secure and maintain fair salaries for lecturers and the need for an independent pay review body (supported by two of the three HE unions) is clear.
Association of Universities and College Lecturers Union