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Last Updated: Monday, 23 February, 2004, 13:32 GMT
Q&A: University pay
university lecture theatre
A new salary scale is planned for all universities
Members of one of the higher education unions, the Association of University Teachers, are taking industrial action in many UK universities.

At issue is pay and - crucially - a proposed new pay structure.

What's proposed?

In higher education in the UK there is an historical split between the "old", pre-1992 universities, and the "new", post-1992 institutions - the former polytechnics.

The key feature of the proposals is to bring together all staff on a single pay "spine" from August this year.

This would range from 10,560 to 46,292 on 10 grades, within which there are five levels for academic staff, on salaries ranging from 19,645 upwards.

At the first academic level, people would be likely "to undertake clearly prescribed tasks to assist in teaching and/or research activities".

Those at the top level would be "responsible for academic leadership involving the development and overall management of teaching or research programmes or enterprise activities, and/or for the management of departmental administration activities with significant responsibility for resources (staff, finances and equipment)".

People would be assigned to pay grades through national "role profiles".

They would expect to progress up the spine one point at a time each year, though this could be accelerated to reward special effort, skill or experience.

A provisional agreement was reached between the trades unions and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association last July.

So what's the problem?

Broadly speaking, the Association of University Teachers (AUT) recruits among staff in the old universities, those in the new universities belonging to the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (Natfhe) or the Educational Institute of Scotland University Lecturers Association (EIS/ULA).

Five other unions also organise in universities.

Only the AUT is taking action. There were a number of stumbling blocks from its perspective, over and above its argument that the proposed pay rise of 3.44% this year and 3% next was simply not enough.

The union said reduced annual increments would mean many lecturers losing 6,300 over eight years, researchers losing 17,300 over nine years and related staff losing 47,000 over 21 years.

The AUT said talks ended when the employers withdrew an offer to negotiate on the problem areas - leaving it with no option but to ballot its members on industrial action.

Of its 47,000 members, 54.4% took part in a postal ballot: 66.6% backed strike action and 81.2%, action short of a strike.

What do the employers say?

They say the agreement is just a framework and that the proposed pay structure is a "model" one, within which alternatives can be negotiated locally to meet different needs - although this move away from national bargaining, as the union sees it, is another concern.

They say academic staff will get at least 6.5% by August 2004, with a further 1.2% on average where universities and colleges can introduce the new pay spine by that date.

There will be additional increases for some staff resulting from the regrading associated with the introduction of new pay structures, amounting to another 3% to 5% on average overall.

Also, that there will be new opportunities for many staff to progress up the pay scale - especially in the new universities.

What about the other unions?

The other main lecturers' union, Natfhe, says it supports the AUT on its concerns about the way some staff in the old universities will be disadvantaged.

But it says those issues do not affect academic staff in the new universities in the same way.

Natfhe has also been seeking to negotiate improvements. It is balloting its members on what they think of the framework agreement, with a recommendation that they accept it.

Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland are also being balloted - with their leaders recommending they reject the deal.

Academic-related staff about whom the AUT has big concerns include people such as librarians, senior administrative and computer staff.

In new universities they are represented by Unison, which has already accepted the proposals in full.

Unison says the agreement addresses its long-standing claim for job evaluation to be used to determine pay and grading, and that many senior administrative and professional staff are in pay grades that relate to their job title - not what they do.

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21 Jul 03  |  Education

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