Pay deal could mean job cuts

June 9, 2006

V-cs stretched to limits say they'll have to make savings somewhere, report Alan Thomson and Anna Fazackerley

Universities may have to consider substantial job losses to afford the national pay deal agreed by unions this week, employers have warned.

Unions and universities finally reached an agreement on Tuesday to increase academic salaries by 13.1 per cent over three years - in effect, ending the three-month-old dispute and assessment boycott.

But as the fledgling University and College Union prepared to ballot members, the spectre of redundancies loomed. And early indications reveal disappointment among many union members - suggesting that the outcome of the ballot is by no means certain.

The Universities and Colleges Employers' Association said the deal is at the limit and, in some cases, beyond the limit of what institutions can afford for the period 2006-07 to 2008-09.

A Ucea source said: "Some institutions may need to consider job losses. It will then be a case of local discussions about implementation and of staff agreeing to defer pay rises to save jobs."

Sally Hunt, joint general secretary of the UCU, said: "I will not accept that having to pay staff a nationally agreed salary rise is an excuse to cut jobs. I do not believe that any institution is in such financial penury that it cannot honour this pay award."

Key to this week's deal was a commitment to a review of academic pay and higher education finances. This will be independently chaired and is due to report in autumn 2008. It will inform the 2009-10 pay negotiations and could mean an additional backdated rise for 2008-09, taking the three-year deal beyond 13.1 per cent.

But a clause included in the official agreement allows institutions in serious financial difficulty to defer pay increases for up to 11 months "to minimise job losses".

Some university heads are warning that the pay deal could cost jobs.

Geoffrey Crossick, warden of Goldsmith's, University of London, said: "It is well beyond what we can afford. As a consequence, there will have to be significant savings in each of the next three years."

Graham Upton, vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, ruled out short-term redundancies, but said: "We are going to have to model this and see what the implications are. It could mean some job losses in the future."

Les Ebdon, vice-chancellor of Luton University, said: "Plans we had to grow staff and to help reduce workloads will no longer be possible."

Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of Ucea, said: "Most institutions regard this as at the absolute limit of what they can afford. But the important thing is that we have a national agreement that the unions are going to recommend to members."

The UCU executive is due to recommend acceptance of the offer to its members, who will then be balloted on the offer.

Ucea has recommended that employers restore pay docked from academics during the dispute.

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