In an “unprecedented” development that other universities are likely to examine closely, Swansea has asked the unions to consider “a time-limited increment sacrifice scheme that will yield savings in the order of £1.5 million”.
The cut would apply only to staff on grade seven and above, covering academics, academic-related staff and senior managers.
Richard Davies, Swansea’s vice-chancellor, says in an email sent to staff today: “If this proposal for increment sacrifice is accepted by the trades unions, and agreement is reached, then the university commits itself not to dismiss any permanent staff (ie, all staff other than those whose fixed-term or fixed-funding contracts expire) through redundancy during the academic year 2011-12. The university hopes to renew this commitment to job security for 2012-13 and thereafter on an annual basis.”
Professor Davies adds that the proposal “will mean a 3 per cent reduction in expected salary” in 2011-12 for grades seven to 10. For those above grade 10, the cut would be 3.75 per cent. He calls the strategy “bold and unprecedented”.
Professor Davies cites the need to address “the significant reduction in the public funds available for investment in the higher education sector in Wales and the rest of the UK”.
Mike Robinson, national education officer for Unite, said that the union would be taking legal advice as the proposals potentially contravene sex discrimination and equal pay legislation and are “outside national agreements on pay spine progression”.
Mr Robinson said that the removal of the increment – which allows workers to build pay as they gain experience – would mean that staff doing the same jobs for similar lengths of time would be on different pay scales.
Swansea’s move raises questions about its involvement in higher education’s national bargaining and pay spine arrangement. But Professor Davies says: “National pay bargaining and national pay rates will continue to apply.”