Staff '£50K worse off'

November 28, 2003

Key university staff will be almost £50,000 worse off as their pay is eroded under the deal offered by employers, the Association of University Teachers said this week.

The union has calculated that a person starting a career as an academic-related member of staff, such as a librarian, could be £46,000 out of pocket over 21 years because the regular pay rises staff receive over their careers will be smaller than under present arrangements.

Similarly, a research assistant starting a career next year would be Pounds 17,300 worse off after nine years of work. And a lecturer of two years' standing would lose £6,300 over the next eight years. The figures apply to staff in old universities.

Malcolm Keight, deputy general secretary of the AUT, said: "The massive reductions in income that many higher education staff would sustain under the modernisation proposals are shocking. If the employers want to avert a national dispute, they must improve their offer drastically."

In a letter to Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association, Mr Keight says: "Our joint objective is to improve pay and earnings prospects so that careers in higher education are attractive. Judged against these figures, the proposed framework fails to achieve that objective.

"I am writing to you in the hope that employers will, at this late stage, accept that more needs to be done if the framework is to make a genuine contribution to the increase of earnings for academic and academic-related staff."

Ms Prudence disputed the figures. She said: "The AUT brings no credit to its argument if it continues to undermine the efforts of its trade union colleagues and ourselves by promulgating spurious claims that lack evidence and academic rigour."

The AUT looks increasingly isolated in its vehement opposition to the pay deal, which offers a 7.7 per cent average pay increase over two years in return for a major shake-up of career paths. It is furious that the deal will move its academic-related members, who make up about a quarter of its 45,000 membership, to a local pay-bargaining system while academics retain national bargaining. All the non-academic unions have accepted the deal.

This week, lecturers' union Natfhe looked increasingly likely to accept the deal. A low 35 per cent of members voted to reject a call to move to a ballot for strike action over the offer. They voted 75 per cent in favour of continuing talks over a few sticking points.

Five points remain to be resolved. Negotiators want:

  • To ensure a better pay offer if inflation rises
  • To prevent discretionary pay points being used to introduce performance-related pay
  • To ensure that part-time and hourly paid lecturers are fairly graded in the new job framework
  • To agree clear grade profiles
  • To ensure that there are proper procedures for implementing the framework.

Roger Kline, head of universities at Natfhe, said: "An agreed deal is possible, and that is what we want - but only if these issues are resolved."

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