We deserve prize of pay review body body

November 10, 1995

How sad to see a spokesperson for our sister union, Natfhe, line up with the chief executive of the UCEA in seeking to deny professional staff in higher education the benefits of an independent and fully funded pay review body (THES letters, October ). It is not edifying to see unions allying themselves with employers to attack the position of other unions.

The facts speak more eloquently than empty rhetoric on this issue. Over the past 20 years, those public sector groups covered by the pay review bodies have fared much better than those forced to rely solely on collective bargaining. Since obtaining a pay review body in 1987, school teachers have improved their salary levels by 10 per cent in comparison with those who work in universities, whose pay has actually fallen over the same period, relative to inflation.

The case for a substantial catch-up pay award for academic and related staff is unanswerable, particularly when supported by the massive productivity gains delivered in recent years. But only those who inhabit a dream world can pretend to believe that a catch-up is likely to be delivered in one year, as a result of a "one-off" pay review. Even if the dream were to come true, there would be nothing to prevent years of salary erosion following the "one-off" award.

Clearly, we need a permanent system of independent pay review which will restore our comparative position and ensure that it is maintained in the future. This objective is now achievable. Both major opposition parties and a substantial number of Tory back benchers are committed to the introduction of a higher education pay review body. The Association of University Teachers is determined to ensure that this commitment is delivered.

Of course, government funding does not always match the review body recommendations, notably this year resulting in teacher cuts and redundancies (the point made by Steve Rouse). Of course, the review bodies are partly influenced by political pressures. But surely the question is which system of pay fixing puts most pressure on government to find the funding needed for pay - collective bargaining or a review body? Bargaining is massively constrained by predetermined funding but with a review body government suffers major public hostility if it fails to match the previous announced independent assessment of pay needs.

Professional staff throughout higher education will not look kindly on those who appear to be attempting to deny us the prize of a pay review body.

ALAN CARR Vice chair, employment committee Association of University Teachers

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