Staff accept 'insulting' pay deal despite union opposition

Strike ballot called off as 80 per cent of Coventry academics agree offer. John Gill reports

October 2, 2008

A large majority of Coventry University academics have opted to accept a new performance-related pay deal that was rejected by the University and College Union (UCU) as "ill thought out and insulting".

The decision by more than 80 per cent of lecturers to accept the deal was said this week to have vindicated the university's controversial decision to bypass the UCU by approaching academics individually with the pay offer after negotiations with the union broke down.

In July, the UCU warned the university it would "feel the full force of the national union, as well as its local staff, if it persists with trying to force through these ill-thought-out and insulting proposals".

The deal, which was accepted by non-academic staff in 2006, was offered to around 600 lecturers in July after talks with UCU reached stalemate.

Madeleine Atkins, Coventry's vice-chancellor, said the plans were based on the national framework agreement on pay and career structures, and offered modernisation that would benefit many academics. But the UCU, which is opposed to performance-related pay nationally, said Coventry was trying to "hoodwink" lecturers into taking pay cuts.

The university has said that the academic take-up of the pay deal means that 94 per cent of all staff have now signed up to the new arrangements.

Professor Atkins said: "Now that we have completed the process, I'd like to thank our academic staff for their support at this important time in the development of the university. We remain committed to collective bargaining and have invited all our unions to the next Joint Negotiating Committee meeting.

"In addition, we can also confirm that the university will fully honour the last phase of the present national bargaining agreement which is effective from October 2008," she said.

A statement issued by the UCU said: "In a ballot linked to the pay dispute at Coventry University, members of the UCU gave a mandate for strike action.

"The union has now written to the management to seek further negotiations to try to settle the ongoing dispute. It has been decided not to take industrial action at present."


Queen Margaret University (QMU) in Edinburgh plans to make about 35 staff redundant because it cannot afford to meet the cost of academics' autumn pay rise.

The university said that urgent action was needed to cut spending if it was to be able to honour the national pay settlement for lecturers. The deal will pay academics an increase equivalent to next month's retail prices index. The figure is currently 4.8 per cent.

In a memo to staff, vice-chancellor Anthony Cohen said that the institution would "take all reasonable steps" to minimise the use of compulsory redundancies.

Professor Cohen said: "We are facing a pay award far in excess of the level originally anticipated. This, with escalating pension costs and increased expenditure on energy, will adversely affect QMU's future financial situation."

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