London South Bank University will not pay staff the national 0.5 per cent pay rise negotiated last year, in a bid to avoid redundancies. The university is also in talks with campus unions about adopting local pay negotiations.
Vice-chancellor Martin Earwicker has told the unions that “the executive and the board of governors have given considerable thought to the issue of pay and have decided that no pay award will be made for this year”. The decision applies to all staff.
The move was necessary because the university’s income could not support its expenditure, the vice-chancellor explained. He also said the executive and board had concluded that national bargaining was “no longer appropriate” for the university’s planning needs.
Professor Earwicker, who joined London South Bank in April 2009, told Times Higher Education that it would be “irresponsible” not to impose a pay freeze in the current financial environment and that blanket redundancy schemes were “not good management”.
But he said no decision had been made about withdrawing from national bargaining and that this would not be done “if the staff as a whole think it is not the way forward”.
He added: “I think that we could get to where we want to go more easily with local bargaining. Each institution has different pressures at different times and negotiating your biggest cost in this block way does not make sense.”
Michael MacNeil, the University and College Union’s national head of higher education, accused Professor Earwicker of taking a “kneejerk” approach and called on him to disclose financial data to prove that the pay freeze was necessary.
The university’s accounts show it had a surplus of more than £1 million in 2008-09, but the vice-chancellor has predicted that this will become a deficit in 2009-10.
Mr MacNeil said: “The professor should be prepared to share all the documents he has passed to the governors with us.”
Moves to break away from national bargaining were a “diversionary and time-consuming sideshow” at a time when the sector needed to unite, he added.
“It needs this kind of destabilisation like a hole in the head,” Mr MacNeil said.
Professor Earwicker also supports performance-related pay, which he introduced while in his previous post as director of the National Museum of Science and Industry.
“It only needs to be a small amount but it ensures that assessment is taken seriously,” he said.
His corporate plan for 2009-12 says the university wants to “reward people on the basis of actual delivery, not time served or prior qualifications”.
“This process, reinforced by a link to pay, should ensure that the overall process is followed for every member of staff without exception,” it says.
Performance assessment and rewards will be introduced for all staff for the academic year 2010-11, it adds.
The plan aims to make London South Bank “the most admired new university in London” within three years.