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Produced by Belfast Association of University Teachers Issue No 1 January 1998

Contents of issue 1998-01

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Pay-news

reddot.gif (924 bytes)The VC's Vision

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Annual Meeting of Admin, Computer and Library Staff, 12 March 1998

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Administrative and Computing Staff: Flexible Working

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Discretionary Awards

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Academic Promotions 1997-1998

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Hay Job Evaluation

reddot.gif (924 bytes)AUT Winter Council

reddot.gif (924 bytes)OECD Statistics

Pay News

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At long last, the Independent Review Committee (IRC) recommended in Dearing has a chairman — Sir Michael Bett. The government refused to appoint a chairman themselves and so hope to avoid any responsibility for the funding of the recommendations of this one-off pay review. The delay means that it unlikely to report before the end of 1998.

Our employers’ negotiators, the University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), say that they are anxious to concentrate on the work of the IRC and would like to get the 1998 pay round out of the way quickly. Of course one way to achieve that would be to make a pay rise offer in large double figures, but they do not seem to have that in mind. The UCEA want a single meeting with all the trade union sides at the same time in order to finalise the pay negotiations by the end of March. At first sight this seems good news, but you must remember their objective of introducing single table bargaining at which the only aspect of pay which is determined nationally is a percentage to be applied to a pay spine common to all staff. A Pay Review Body, appropriate comparators, changes to pay structures, etc. could not be discussed. Their suggestion would mean that for the second year in a row there would be de facto single table bargaining.

The UCEA propose a three stage process the first of which is the submission by the trade unions of their claims by 11 February for consideration by the UCEA Board on 12 February. This is window dressing. AUT submitted its claim before Christmas and it still has not been distributed by UCEA to its institutions. The UCEA negotiators have been given their negotiating remit (that is to say the upper limit on the money) before the claims have been seen.

The second stage is a single meeting in early March at which all the trade unions are to present their claims. This is hardly an opportunity to expound them properly, but then who is listening? The third stage that UCEA propose is a single meeting shortly after at which the UCEA want to make the same offer to all bargaining groups. AUT is extremely wary of this as it could be represented as single table bargaining. We will send just an observer, making it clear that any negotiations (not just on the percentage, but on all aspects of the claim) should take place in our usual negotiating forum.

Another worrying aspect is the UCEA’s view of the role of the Independent Review Committee. They say, ‘¼ it will demonstrate to those associated with and outside the sector that we are capable of resolving our own problems.’ Oh no it won’t, unless we start printing money!

At the AUT Council on 22 January two main motions on pay were passed overwhelmingly. One dealt with pay review:

Council expresses its dismay:

    1. that the independent review committee recommended by Sir Ron Dearing six months ago has still not been established (recommendation 50);
    2. that the government has refused to appoint an independent chair.

University and college academic and related staff called of our 1996/7 dispute on the basis of an explicit commitment from the employers to support the establishment of an independent pay review body.

Council notes that UCEA is in the process of establishing an independent pay review committee which will meet most, but not all of the specifications outlined by Dearing and authorises the Executive committee to participate in its deliberation for as long as it serves the purpose of advancing the claims for a significant salary increase for academic and academic-related staffs. Council reaffirms its belief that this will best be achieved by the establishment of a statutory pay review body and calls on our employers to argue for their previously agreed commitment to such a body in new evidence to the independent review committee.

The second motion sets up contingency plans for action over our pay claim for 1 April 1998.

Council resolves that AUT should refuse to tolerate any further erosion of salary levels for academic and related staff

Council therefore instructs the Executive Committee to prepare contingency plans for industrial action, including examination action, which will be implemented unless there is a pay offer by 1 April 1998 which:

i) makes provision for the employers’ side to meet the government to argue unambiguously for pay review;

ii) ensures that the employer’s side will press for a statutory pay review body for academic and related staff
during the deliberations of the independent review committee;

iii) makes provision for the salary improvements claimed in accordance with the decisions of Council on 26
September 1997.

Council endorses LA/6185 as a basis for the development of contingency plans for industrial action.

Council authorises the Executive to organise any necessary consultative or industrial action ballots at the appropriate time to initiate action in accordance with these contingency plans.

LA/6185 is a document discussing various possible actions, and a copy can be obtained from me. However should the need for action arise the specific action will be explained to you and your approval sought in a ballot.

The recommendations of the various public sector pay review bodies have just been announced. They are in the range of 3.5% to 5.2% even though the awards are phased, these are the figures by which the baseline will have changed by December. The AUT demands a similar offer from our employers plus something extra to lessen our accumulated salary erosion.

Paul Hudson

The V-C’s Vision

You all had the opportunity to hear Professor Bain address the staff, and we hope that it is a portend of a new era of openness and humanity. Belfast AUT officers found nothing that he said to be objectionable and much that should be welcomed. Of course the devil is in the detail and we will be discussing that in our meetings with the senior officers of the university starting next week. He referred to two reports, the report of the Strategic Review Group and the consultant report from the two registrars, Shattock and Holmes. We will review both reports when we get official copies. However well informed sources say that they are both wide ranging and radical and provide ammunition for many possible changes. The report of the Strategic Review Group casts doubt on the future of many subject areas. The report of the two registrars is damning about many areas of administration and proposes a radical reorganisation under a Registrar.

Paul Hudson

Annual Meeting of Admin, Computer and Library Staff, 12 March 1998

On 12 March the annual meeting of the Administrative Staff¸ Computer Staff and Library Staff will take place. We are entitled to send two staff representatives to each. Some of the material covered can be a bit dry (although we are trying to change that) but the meetings provide a good opportunity to network with colleagues in other institutions - including, now, the post-1992 universities. AUT covers travel and subsistence. Any AUT staff member from the admin, computer or library staff areas who would be interested in going to the meeting should contact Susan Harte (admin) on Ext. 4668, by e-mail (s.harte@qub.ac.uk); George Dunn (computing) on Ext. 3835, e-mail (g.dunn@qub.ac.uk); or Monica Walsh (library), Tel. 255229, e-mail (m.walsh@qub.ac.uk).

Susan Harte

Administrative and Computing Staff:

Flexible Working

Towards the end of November, I sent a short questionnaire to AUT administrative staff aimed at gathering views on flexible working. We can now let you have the results of the survey. There were 25 responses which represents a response rate of about 40% but some respondents ticked more than one option. The results are summarised below:

Your hours of work


I normally work office hours (9.00 to 5.00 or 5.30) and am very rarely required to work extra hours.


I find myself consistently having to put in extra hours but am happy with the flexibility this gives me


I find myself consistently having to put in extra hours and feel that this is not recognised with any flexibility by my line manager.

Our contracts


I am happy with our contracts the way they are.


I would like some sort of informal work loads agreement along the lines of good practice dictating that staff should work no longer than x hours per week and within this flexibility should be operated by both sides.


I would like set hours of work and flexible working within, say, the period 8.00 am to 6.00 pm.

The results are slightly inconsistent but we have a small majority of respondents favouring formalised, flexible working. Adopting flexible working would mean a change in our contracts. Instead of being contracted to work "the hours required by the job" we would be required to work a set working week - say 37½ hours. We could work these hours between, say, 8.00 am and 6.00 pm Monday to Friday but might be required to keep "core" hours - perhaps between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm. Most flexitime schemes allow limited scope to "clock up" extra hours and take them as leave.

The results of the questionnaire do not give us a clear mandate to negotiate on your behalf for formal flexitime - especially as it would mean a change in our contracts and a break with academic staff in terms of our conditions of employment. The 11 "yes" votes may represent a small majority of the respondents but the number of respondents was not itself a majority. However, we cannot set aside the results of the survey: the majority may be small but it is a majority nonetheless. What we need is another meeting so that more people can have their say. We have also decided to include computer staff in this as these colleagues probably have the same interest as administrators.

The meeting will held on Wednesday, 18th February at 1.00 pm in the Senate Room.

We would urge as many of you as possible to come to this meeting. The matter is an important one and before AUT embarks on anything, or decides not to embark on anything, it needs to know that it is representing the views of the majority of members.

Susan Harte, Admin Staff Representative

Discretionary Awards

A number of errors crept into the distribution of the discretionary awards just before Christmas, not least in relation to staff paid from external sources. We are assured that, after representations were made, these are being dealt with, and should be sorted out in the pay packet. Do get back to us and/or Personnel if this proves not to be the case. There was also a discrepancy in discretionary awards paid to staff who became part-time during the current year. The discretionary award for such staff was based on their salary in November and did not take account of when they became part-time. If you fall within this category it might be worthwhile to contact Personnel to see if this discrepancy has been rectified in your January pay.

Richard Jay

Academic Promotions, 1997-98

We were disappointed in our expectation that everyone who appealed against an adverse promotions decision did not get interviewed by the Appeals Committee. I believe this may have been an administrative error, and we are pressing to ensure that interviews for those who wish them are reinstated for 1998.

One issue we have taken up about the present procedures is the use of student evaluation questionnaires in the promotions process. While many individuals may wish to submit the results of questionnaires in support of their application, we would note that nowhere in any procedure is this necessary, and, indeed, that the requirement to submit material gathered as part of the appraisal process is undoubtedly contrary to agreed and documented appraisal procedures. Our main concern is the rather unsystematic way in which this material appears to be used in different Schools and Colleges, and the varying weight attached to it compared with other criteria for judging "teaching performance" (e.g. developing teaching material, innovation, etc.). We have put these matters to the Academic Council Office, and are exploring current practice in other long-established universities.

Richard Jay

Hay Job Evaluation Scheme

Dates for appeals are now being set. Please make contact on ext. 3090 if you wish to discuss your appeal with a qualified officer of the Association or want someone to accompany you to interview.

Richard Jay

AUT Winter Council

This was the shortest meeting ever of the delegate conference, lasting from 1.30 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. The topics for Winter Council are restricted to pay and any urgent matters, and the scarcity of motions from Local Associations keep the agenda short.

The main pay motion are detailed above. Another important motion concerned the Government’s plans to increase the number of HE students taught in FE colleges, the unfunded work in HE to validate and monitor these courses, and the threat to quality. It included ‘Council therefore resolves that there should be no further voluntary work undertaken on higher education courses to be delivered in further education institutions, and that the Association will conduct a consultative ballot of members to this end.’

Council also heard of the redundancy problems at Bristol and at Aberystwyth and resolved to invoke the ‘grey listing’ procedure of censured institutions if compulsory redundancies occurred.

Paul Hudson

OECD Statistics

The members of the OECD are the leading developed industrial nations. In 1994/5 they spent an average of 1.5% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on post-school education. In the UK it was 1.2%, just above the bottom quartile. And there was a difference in how this money was spent that will be no surprise to any one working in UK universities. While Ireland, Portugal, Iceland and Spain each spent on staff pay at least 80% of its total post-school expenditure, the percentage for the UK is just 45%, which is the lowest for any OECD country.

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