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Friday, May 21, 1999 Published at 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK


Pay blow for university staff

Strikes and rallies over this year's pay are planned for Tuesday

Most university academic staff look unlikely to get the substantial pay rises they have long been demanding, from the independent review of their pay.

The independent inquiry, chaired by Sir Michael Bett, is expected to produce its final report next month.

According to a draft of its recommendations seen by The Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), there will be a call for higher starting salaries to try to attract more people with doctorates into teaching.

It says this would mean a minimum of £20,000 by 2002, rather than the present £15,000 - with £46,500 for the most senior academics instead of the present minimum for professors of £35,000.

The THES says there would be safeguards on working time, and a common set of core conditions for part-time staff as well as full-timers.

Gender gap

Support staff should also get "substantial real increases" on their minimum salaries, taking them from the 1998-99 level of about £8,000 to £11,000 by 2002.

But the report is said to stress that there has to be a major reform of the pay structure - and, crucially, a willingness by the government to pay for these increases.

And overall pay bills for universities would increase by less than 9% in real terms over three years - meaning nothing more for the bulk of academics beyond cost-of-living rises.

A key exception, it is said, would be ending the pay 'gender gap'. Other reports have suggested that research commissioned by the review committee will show that men in the older universities are paid on average over £4,000 a year more than women.

Industrial action

The Association of University Teachers (AUT) is planning industrial action in 'old' (pre-1992) universities across the UK on Tuesday - on a claim for 10% for this year alone. It has rejected an offer of 3.5%.

A spokeswoman for the independent review committee said it would not comment on apparent leaks. There was yet to be a further meeting of the committee to finalise its recommendations prior to publication "next month".

The AUT - which is represented on the review committee - also made the point that this was not the final report - but said that if the final version pointed the way to fair pay there would be "happy faces".

"But there are too many ifs and buts to get excited now," a spokeswoman said. "On the basis of this some people are going to be really unhappy."

A spokeswoman for Unison, which represents some 60,000 university manual workers, said they welcomed the recognition that people were underpaid - but disappointed that Bett was apparently not going to propose a single pay structure for all staff, academic or otherwise.

Unison feels that a two-tier system perpetuates an elite at the expense of people paid as little as £3.82 an hour.

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