Strike warning as Coventry bypasses UCU on pay

July 24, 2008

A decision to bypass the lecturers' union to break an impasse over a performance-related pay structure at Coventry University has led to strike warnings from academic staff.

The university has written to about 600 lecturers to offer them the choice as individuals of moving to a new pay structure or staying on their existing contracts.

Managers took the decision to end negotiations with the University and College Union after deciding they had reached a stalemate.

However, at a meeting last week, UCU members at Coventry voted to reject the proposed changes on pay and to ballot for industrial action if the university did not return to the negotiating table.

Madeleine Atkins, the vice-chancellor, insisted that the new deal, accepted by non-academic staff in 2006, was based on the national framework agreement on pay and career structures, and would benefit many academics.

However, the UCU has accused the university of attempting to hoodwink staff into thinking they would get a better deal through a complex and bureaucratic system that would actually amount to a pay cut for some staff.

Jon Baxter, UCU chair at Coventry, said the union was "angry, disappointed and saddened that the university has attempted to hoodwink its staff".

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU, added: "Coventry University can rest assured that it will 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."

However, the university said attendance at the UCU meeting was low, and accused the union of being "selective" in its advice to staff, with some being told to accept the new deal because it would benefit them.

Professor Atkins said: "Most of our academics - three quarters - decided not to attend the UCU open meeting, and any votes were made by a small minority.

"Academic staff have until 12 September to respond to the proposals, but we have already seen a steady flow of responses coming in each day."

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