Why we do not need a Hera

June 13, 1997

There is no doubt that existing salary and careers structures for academic and academic-related staff are seriously flawed, fail to meet elementary equal opportunities criteria and are open to challenge on the basis of equal pay for work of equal value. There are two ways of dealing with this problem.

The obvious way and that proposed by the unions, the Association of University Teachers and Natfhe - the university and college lecturers' union- is to confront the problem head on and to root out discrimination and inequality. This will involve the introduction of a rational professional career structure, with fewer and shorter scales and with grading and promotion based on clearly defined criteria and transparent procedures.

The alternative approach is to sidestep the problem and attempt to construct a legal defence against equal value claims. Unfortunately, university employers as represented by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association have opted for the second approach and are embarked on a project to impose a system of job evaluation (Hera - Higher Education Role Analysis). Such a system, based as it is on a mechanistic analysis of tasks, would devalue the professionalism of academic and related staff, impede the restoration of adequate salary levels and force the break up of national salary scales and, thus, of a national higher education system.

The outgoing chief executive of UCEA has made his objectives clear. Hera is designed for local implementation and it is recognised that it may well disrupt existing national pay scales prior to agreement on an alternative structure.

That is why AUT and Natfhe, representing academic and academic related staff, are absolutely determined to prevent imposition. Six Hera pilot schemes are due to take place over the summer. These have been planned without consultation or negotiation with the unions and will not be allowed to proceed despite the ultimatum from UCEA which dismisses the need for consent.

The main purpose of this letter is to make a last-minute appeal to vice chancellors to bring their subsidiary agency (UCEA) under control and to draw back from the path of confrontation. The time is long overdue for vice chancellors to respond positively to our frequently expressed enthusiasm to enter into serious and substantive negotiations in a joint effort to agree new career structures for professional academic and academic-related staff with grading and promotion based on consideration of the talent and skills of the individual rather than the mechanistic requirements of particular posts.

It has been estimated that the attempt to impose Hera could cost up to 5 per cent of the higher education pay bill. Surely a better use can be found for this funding than to squander it on an ultimately doomed attempt to impose an unacceptable and unworkable system of job evaluation.

Alan Carr, Chair of employment committee, AUT

Jill Jones, Chair of higher education committee, Natfhe

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