Pay rise poses dilemma for Bolton staff

Workers to vote on whether to take final 2.5 per cent of last year’s national pay award as v-c warns that increase will cause job losses. Melanie Newman reports

May 8, 2009

The University of Bolton is to ballot staff about taking the final part of last year’s national pay award.

As part of the UK-wide agreement, workers were due to receive a 5 per cent pay rise last October. But Bolton paid 2.5 per cent and said it would pay the rest in June 2009 if circumstances allowed. Last week, George Holmes, vice-chancellor of Bolton, told a meeting of staff that the university would have to make job cuts if the rise were paid in full.

An academic who was present at the meeting said: “He first declared that none of the senior executive team would be taking a pay rise this year. Then he said he had the money to pay 2.5 per cent, but did not have enough to consolidate it, so it would not be pensionable.”

Paying the consolidated amount would add £600,000 to the wage bill, staff were told. They will now be asked to vote on whether they want the rise in advance of a governors’ meeting on 13 May.

Chris Minta, University and College Union branch secretary at Bolton, said: “The union is consulting its members and looking at the books to see whether the university can afford to pay or not.”

Paul Foley, regional organiser for Unison, accused Bolton of attempting to blackmail staff into accepting a lower pay deal.

He said: “The vice-chancellor’s claims that he cannot afford to honour the deal in full do not ring true when you consider that he got an 11 per cent pay increase last year, taking his salary up to £167,000. If prudence has to apply to those on the lower end of the pay scales, why should those at the top be given preferential treatment?”

He added: “The university is unique in holding back 2.5 per cent of the nationally agreed pay deal. The vice-chancellor is running the risk of our members taking a vote of no confidence in him.

“Instead of wasting time with voting, the university should just treat its staff fairly, do the decent thing and pay the award in full.”

Dr Holmes said: “The unions and staff have been aware for some time that a final decision on the pay award will be made on the grounds of affordability at the board of governors’ meeting on 13 May. This remains within the national agreement.”

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