Wales struggles to modernise pay

October 27, 2006

Academic wages in Wales are set to fall further behind those in England as Welsh institutions drag their feet over introducing the pay framework agreement, union leaders warned, writes Tony Tysome.

Two of the 12 higher education institutions in Wales have introduced the agreement. Union leaders predicted that the rest were unlikely to complete the process before the next academic year.

It will leave the wages modernisation process in most Welsh institutions a year behind those in England by August 2007 - almost certainly widening further a pay gap already estimated to be about 7 per cent. The pay framework is estimated to have added an average 3 to 5 per cent to academic pay in English institutions.

Union leaders warned that Welsh institutions, especially those close to the English border, would suffer staff recruitment and retention problems as a result. And they have predicted growing resentment among academics in Wales if their institutions have to offer higher salaries to academics recruited from England.

Many believe the framework agreement has fallen behind in Wales because the Welsh Assembly refused to earmark significant funding to help the process along. The £1.3 million set aside for this by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales was described as "paltry" by union leaders.

Andrew Morgan, who chairs the University and College Union higher education committee in Wales, said: "Welsh institutions will fall further and further behind England, and staff recruitment and retention will become particularly difficult."

Alan Heneberry, UCU chair at the Swansea Institute, predicted that Welsh academics would resist moves by their institutions to pay higher wages to academics recruited from England.

"The framework negotiations are not just going slow in Wales - they are going nowhere," he said.

  • Calls for the Welsh Assembly Government to close a funding gap between higher education in Wales and England helped opposition leaders vote down the Assembly's draft budget on Tuesday. Higher Education Wales, which represents vice-chancellors, claims that the gap is "significantly higher" than funding chiefs' estimate of between £16 million and £24 million.

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