Thousands still waiting for pay rises

October 19, 2007

Employers admit at least 14 per cent of post-92s have not yet applied 2004 framework, writes Melanie Newman. Thousands of university staff are missing out on salary rises and improved career structures as some universities struggle to implement historic pay reforms.

The national pay framework, which was agreed in 2004, has resulted in pay rises of up to 30 per cent for some job grades at some institutions, as staff are moved onto a single pay spine.

But 15 months after the deadline for implementation of the framework, a number of universities, primarily in the post-1992 sector, have not yet adopted it.

Figures from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association show that across Britain 14 per cent of post-92 universities have confirmed they have not implemented, while a further 10 per cent have not provided information to show the framework has been put in place. Ucea said that in England, 82 per cent of post-92s had implemented, or 58 out of 71 institutions responding to a survey.

But the University and College Union said it could verify that only around half of the new universities in England and Wales have implemented the reforms. Assistant UCU general secretaries Rachel Curley and Michael MacNeil said in a circular leaked to The Times Higher : "The ongoing difficulties in post-92 institutions should not be underestimated."

A Ucea spokesman said: "In comparison to similar pay modernisation agreements in local government and the NHS, this is a good rate of implementation." The spokesman attacked the union's national ratification committee for delaying approval of agreements that had already been made between local unions and universities.

"Several institutions reported they had reached agreement with their local unions but that ratification by the unions' national offices was taking a long time. (Management at) one institution said that they had been waiting two months for the UCU ratification committee to meet to discuss their agreement," the Ucea spokesman said.

The UCU admits the national ratification panel has referred 17 post-92 agreements back to local negotiators.

The circular said negotiations had broken down over issues such as employers' attempts to link grade progression or performance-related "contribution" pay to specific objectives and to move programme management duties from principal lecturers to lecturers. Most recently, universities have argued that new anti-age discrimination regulations forbid the adoption of provisions governing the length of pay scales and staff progression up the scales.

The union circular underlined the importance of speedy ratification, saying: "The further travelled from August 1, 2006 (the agreed implementation date), the harder it is likely to become to secure a satisfactory and negotiated approach to implementation."

Malcolm Keight, UCU national head of higher education, said: "It is now 15 months after the implementation date for English institutions, and why employers haven't been able to get their act together is a mystery to us. There's a large backlog due to their inefficiency."

Academics at four Welsh universities have already suffered from the delay in implementation; their pay rises resulting from the reforms will be backdated to August 2007 rather than August 2006. Swansea, Newport, Glamorgan and Aberystwyth argued that a clause in the agreement referring to August 2006 as being "subject to the funding arrangements in the devolved institutions" gave them flexibility over the implementation date. The employers also pointed to a shortfall in funding from the Welsh Assembly compared with funding for English universities.

Mr Keight said: "With regret we have decided that to avoid further delay to implementation we have decided that where agreements are in other respects acceptable they should be accepted with backdating to August 2007."

He criticised the Welsh universities for choosing not to use supplementary income from the Welsh funding council to pay for fully backdating the agreement.

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