New recruit to ranks faces revolt over 'imposing' local pay deal

September 29, 2006

Britain's newest university is threatened with a national academic boycott and mass legal action just two weeks after it gained the title.

The University and College Union said this week that Edge Hill University had "imposed" on staff a local version of the new national pay framework that breaches the national academic contract, restricts career progression and reduces career earnings for many staff.

Although the university insisted this week that the move would bring immediate benefits and that staff had agreed the changes, the local UCU branch has passed a vote of "censure" in the vice-chancellor and a no-confidence vote in the head of human resources.

At its meeting this week, the UCU national executive will discuss a plan to launch an academic boycott of the university. It said that staff had a clear legal claim after having their contract of employment changed.

The university imposed its own version of the historic 2004 pay framework reforms, which place all staff, from porters to professors in old and new universities, on a single pay spine following formal evaluation of their roles and responsibilities.

John Cater, the vice-chancellor, said: "The scheme we have introduced was developed over two years and supported by 91 per cent of staff voting in a ballot.

"Implementation meant that every single one of our 1,009 full-time and fractional staff received more pay in August than under previous arrangements, and every single member of staff now has the opportunity to progress further than previously."

He said that academic staff had been given additional salary increments at the top of the old senior lecturer pay scale, worth almost £2,500.

"In total, we have committed an additional 5.4 per cent to the pay bill to implement the scheme. We have also this month promoted ten staff to professorial status and appointed 14 additional readers," he said.

But UCU said that some staff would miss out on a pay rise due in September and that the automatic progression from lecturer to senior lecturer had been scrapped. It added that a ballot of staff over the plans had been carried out in summer, when academics were not around.

Andy Pike, UCU national official, said: "The fundamental principle of the framework agreement is that new pay structures must be agreed by local unions. Edge Hill unilaterally imposed a new pay structure.

"Unless the status quo is restored, UCU will need to bring national pressure to bear on the vice-chancellor to protect the rights of members."

Dr Carter said he had "immediately and publicly" offered to discuss the concerns.

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