Low pay scandal shames sector

June 6, 1997

HIGHER education workers are being exploited through a culture of low pay that leaves some earning half the amount of their private sector counterparts, a new survey has revealed.

Trade unions have seized upon the findings of the study on pay and conditions in universities and colleges as the best evidence yet of endemic low pay in the sector caused by underfunding. They say it is a disgrace that higher education, and in particular its successful expansion, has been borne on the backs of low-paid staff.

The study, carried out by Hay Management Consultants with Lord Borrie QC as independent commissioner on behalf of unions and employers, identifies a gulf between the pay of virtually all university staff and comparable employees in the wider public and private sectors.

Manual staff in old univerisites do particularly badly, though their colleagues in academic-related administrative and library posts do well. The study shows that while academics enjoy longer holidays, and other benefits, these are insufficient to make up for the lack of basic pay.

The study, together with a joint letter from employers and eight unions, has been submitted as late evidence to the Dearing committee. The committee is studying a number of options on pay but, given the complexity, it may decide to refer the issue to a royal commission.

The Hay study, which was commissioned as part of this year's higher education pay settlement, looks at academic, including professorial, academic-related and manual salaries and compares them with averages for the public and private sectors. It also offers comparisons with specific professions.

Hay used its own method of attaching ratings (job units) to university jobs. This allowed peculiarly academic jobs to be compared externally with jobs of similar overall scope though not necessarily the same description. The jobs of more than 320 academic and non-academic staff from 24 old and new universities formed the basis of the study.

Details and AUT study, page 7

Leader, page 13

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