Three campus trade unions have walked out of pay talks at Bath University after managers excused themselves and other senior staff from the controversial "job evaluations" that their less-elevated colleagues are expected to endure.
At a packed meeting last week, members of the Association of University Teachers and two support-staff unions agreed unanimously to suspend pay talks.
In a joint statement, the AUT, Amicus and Unison quote a line from George Orwell's Animal Farm : "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
The unions' statement says that it is a basic principle of the pay negotiating process that it is "open, fair and transparent and treats everyone equally" and that the parties had agreed from the outset that all staff, "from porter to vice-chancellor", would undergo job evaluation.
"A decision was taken outside the negotiation processes to exclude all staff above and including professors from the process," the statement says.
"All campus trade unions involved in the discussions felt they had no choice but to withdraw from the negotiating process."
Under the nationally agreed January 2004 Framework Agreement for the Modernisation of Pay Structures, it was decided that all universities would carry out formal job evaluation exercises for all staff, measuring workload and responsibilities. Evaluations were needed to place staff on a new single pay spine and to ensure equal pay for work of equal value across different areas of the university's activities.
Bath agreed to use the computer-based Higher Education Role Analysis system, under which a sample of staff in all job grades in all areas are interviewed by an evaluator who uses the system to develop a set of official job profiles to match to new pay levels.
Michael Carley, vice-president of Bath AUT, said: "The university had agreed that staff at all levels in the university would be subject to job evaluation - right up to the top, vice-chancellor included. We have the minutes of meetings where it was agreed and we have the internal memorandum where the deputy vice-chancellor said that to the university.
"As far as the unions are concerned, the university is not sticking to its agreement, so we've suspended negotiation."
He said that excluding senior staff from the process would prevent pay transparency at the higher levels in the university.
Dr Carley, a lecturer in Bath's department of mechanical engineering, said that the framework agreement was clear that new systems should be put in place only with the agreement of the recognised unions, so there would be no implementation unless the university returned to its original commitment.
A Bath spokesman said: "The university recognises the unions' concerns and hopes that discussions on implementation of the pay modernisation framework will resume as soon as possible. We hope to agree the basis for a resumption of the process in the near future."
No one at the AUT headquarters was available to comment.