Natfhe alleges pay scheme bias at London Met

December 3, 2004

The performance-related pay scheme operated by London Metropolitan University appears to discriminate against ethnic minority staff, union officials claimed this week, writes Claire Sanders.

Lecturers' union Natfhe has found that white lecturers are on average twice as likely to gain outstanding awards as Asian or black lecturers. Under the scheme, known as Padas, these are the highest awards and bring two additional pay increments.

In 2001, 7 per cent of Asian lecturers received awards, 8 per cent of black colleagues and 14 per cent of white lecturers. By 2004, 9 per cent of Asian lecturers benefited, while the percentage of black lecturers dropped to 5 per cent and that of white lecturers had risen to 16.5 per cent.

In 2003, no black or Asian staff achieved awards, while nearly one in five white staff benefited.

Roger Kline, head of the universities department at Natfhe, said: "On the face of it, the figures suggest an element of discrimination. The onus is on the university to say why there is not."

A university spokesperson said the relatively small number of Asian and black staff relative to white staff participating meant the proportions obtaining awards each year varied more. He said: "The university has sought to revise the scheme, but Natfhe has declined to enter discussions on the subject."

The union is in dispute with London Met, formed following the merger of the universities of London Guildhall and North London. Natfhe is unhappy about management plans to extend the North London contract - which it says damages academic freedom - to all staff.

It is also refusing to sign up to the extension of the performance-related pay scheme, operational only on the North London campus at present, to all staff.

A separate Natfhe survey shows widespread concern. Some 46 per cent of staff on the scheme agree it is divisive, with about a third undecided.

Some 63 per cent of staff questioned "disagreed" or "strongly disagreed" with the statement: "The principle of performance-related pay is valid in a university context."

The survey found that 85 per cent of staff rated the relationship between senior management and employees "poor" or "very poor".

The questionnaire was sent to about 1,100 staff, from part-time lecturers to heads of department. Some 400 forms were returned.

Greg Barnett, Natfhe branch chair, said: "An initial look at the findings demonstrates a high level of dissatisfaction with senior management."

A university statement says: "What is uncontroversial is the fact that academic staff turnover has decreased significantly from 12 per cent prior to merger to 7 per cent in 2002-03 and 6 per cent in 2003-04. This would tend to suggest that there is no particular problem with regard to morale."

Natfhe is balloting its members on industrial action.

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