Waging war on local bargaining

July 7, 2000

How many lecturers really believe that an isolated local union branch could get them a better deal than all branches acting together?

Peter Knight claims local pay bargaining would be more flexible and better able to respond to an institution's needs. Yet the reality is that pay arrangements are already very flexible; staff can be placed on any point of the pay scale on entry, enabling many institutions to offer a greater number of shortage subjects, speed the promotion of high-flyers and so on. Where is the "constraint" in that?

The fact is that the University of Central England pay scales have diverged only very little from national scales (they are lower, not higher than average). Knight knows the reason for this is that UCE could not afford to drop too far behind national pay rates and risk leaving itself wide open to recruitment and retention difficulties.

Last year's Bett report assessed the local versus national balance in higher education pay bargaining and concluded that we have it about right - plenty of local flexibility within a broad national structure. And if any further evidence were needed we need look no further than the United States, whose system of local pay bargaining has contributed to a chaotic, divisive and fragmented higher education sector.

Tom Wilson

Head of universities' department Natfhe

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