A proposed pay deal for thousands of Open University tutors was shrouded in confusion this week after the legality of a staff ballot was called into question.
As The Times Higher reported last week, more than 1,000 associate lecturers who are members of the Association of University Teachers have been balloted over a proposed pay deal.
But at an emergency general meeting (EGM) of the union branch held last Thursday (July 21), an overwhelming majority of those present voted for the ballot to be suspended and for pay talks with OU authorities to reopen.
Despite the vote at the EGM, the ballot continued. The result is understood to be a four-to-one majority in favour of accepting the deal.
A separate petition calling for an EGM to discuss the future of the branch executive has now been submitted.
Brenda Jarvis, union branch president, said the matter was now in the hands of Sally Hunt, the AUT's general secretary .
Under the deal, the starting salaries of the OU's 7,000 associate lecturers - teaching-only staff who often work part time - would rise by 10.6 per cent to the equivalent of a full-time salary of £24,886. The pay of experienced staff would rise by 3.3 per cent, to the equivalent of £25,663.
An extra point would be introduced on the pay scale to recognise long service, 6.4 per cent more than the previous pay deal.
An associate lecturer, who asked not to be named, said that the deal discriminated against associate lecturers.
The lecturer added: "Last Thursday, the OU AUT associate lecturers'
regional representative committee said unanimously that it had no confidence in the outcome of the June 2005 negotiations, that negotiations should be reopened and that the pay ballot should be cancelled.
"Later that day, an EGM of members endorsed similar resolutions. Sadly, the OU AUT officers failed to comply: they are now the subject of a branch petition to remove them from office, and one is likely to face a complaint to the national AUT."
Matt Waddup, AUT assistant general secretary, said: "We have not received any formal complaints about the ballot, but if we were to receive one it would be investigated and, if appropriate, we would talk to the local branch about a rerun of the ballot."