UCU launches survey to reveal numbers affected as it prepares to tackle employers. Tony Tysome reports
Thousands of academic-related staff have been "red-circled" by employers as being overpaid for the jobs they do, union leaders claimed this week.
IT staff, careers officers, scientific and project officers and librarians have been hardest hit by job evaluations. Many are facing a four-year pay freeze, while the vast majority of academics have either been upgraded or remained untouched by the process.
Officials at the University and College Union are launching a nationwide survey of members to discover the full extent and nature of the problem.
The findings are expected by Easter. It is feared that up to a fifth of an estimated 10,000 academic-related UCU members may have been red-circled, and that a disproportionate number of female and black and ethnic-minority staff are affected.
Librarian Nick James, chair of the UCU academic-related group and president of Leicester University UCU, where 50 of 240 academic-related staff have been red-circled, said: "Hopefully, we will be able to use the outcome of the survey to either put pressure on institutions where job evaluation has resulted in a bad outcome for academic-related staff or to help us advise members."
Concern centres on the role profiles of academic-related staff, which were not set nationally when the new pay framework was devised. Unlike academics, whose status was protected as part of national negotiations, it was left to employers to set role profiles for academic-related staff locally.
The UCU feared that some employers were using job evaluation to downgrade staff and to abolish the academic-related category in order to cut pay costs. Gavin Reid, UCU president at Leeds University, where it has taken a dispute to bring the number of red-circled staff down from 96 to 20, said library and IT staff seemed to be most vulnerable.
Roger Kline, UCU's head of equality and employment rights, said there was a clear equality issue. "Almost certainly a majority of staff are female, and a high proportion are black and ethnic-minority members," he said.
A spokesman for the Universities and Colleges Employers Association said that its research indicates that more than twice as many roles are to be 'green-circled' (upgraded) than 'red-circled'.
He said: "Red-circling is no reflection on performance and relates to the role, not to the person undertaking that role. Red-circled post holders have their present pay levels protected for several years and theJopportunity to develop skills and apply for higher graded posts during that period."