V-c withdraws docking threat

April 7, 2006

A vice-chancellor has done a U-turn over his plans to dock the pay of staff boycotting student assessments, writes Phil Baty.

The move by David Halton, vice-chancellor of Glamorgan University, has raised union hopes that other vice-chancellors who have outlined similar plans will think again.

Professor Halton told staff in February that anyone taking part in the boycott would have a third of their salaries withheld. But last week he retracted his threat, saying he had changed his position in the light of the many representations he had received from staff.

He said there were practical issues relating to how to calculate the amount to be docked fairly, adding that it would "not be in the best interest of the university or industrial relations generally" to cut pay.

Roger Kline, head of the universities department at lecturers' union Natfhe, said: "Natfhe welcomes the Damascene conversion of Professor Halton from his initial embrace of punitive deductions that have caused uproar and outrage among staff."

Mr Kline said that revised advice on pay docking to vice-chancellors from the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association had recognised that "Natfhe's advice regarding the immense practical difficulties in making deductions was correct".

"If the change in the advice has been sufficient to lead Professor Halton to change his mind, we hope and expect it will have the same effect on other vice-chancellors who had adopted a similar approach," Mr Kline said.

Sally Hunt, AUT general secretary, said: "As well as leaving a legacy of bitterness between employers and staff, pay docking would leave students unlikely to ever get their marks back as staff would not make up the backlog of work without being paid to do it."

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