Produced by Belfast Association of University Teachers Issue No 4 April 1999
Industrial Action Ballot
Following the instructions of AUT Council, the National Executive decided on 26Th March to ballot members on possible industrial action. The trigger was the failure of the employers to make a realistic offer by our settlement date of 1st April. For this reason our colleagues in the "new" universities, who have a later settlement date, will not be involved. Nor will those nursing lecturers in QUB who are still paid on Health Service scales or retired members who are not working.
Industrial action can be legal only over a dispute with our employer (QUB Senate) and not over Government funding or policy, despite the influence these have over our pay and conditions of service. There are a large number of legal hoops that AUT has to jump through before we can take industrial action, and this necessitates the drawn-out timetable. The whole purpose of the legislation is to make life difficult for trade unions. The timetable is:
April 9th Section 226A notices sent to employers along with certificate of intent, sample ballot paper, date of ballot opening and names and addresses of members entitled to vote.
April 13th Second negotiating meeting.
April 19th Ballot papers despatched to members.
May 4th Deadline for new members to be included.
May 10th Ballot closes.
May 12th Ballot result announced and sent to employers. AUT Council will be meeting and it will decide on the form of action to be pursued in the light of the ballot.
Late May Action begins. The earliest possible date is 25th May. Action must start within 28 days of the close of the ballot.
The wording of the ballot paper and what can accompany it is governed by the law. There will be two questions:
In both cases you will be given a description of the type of action that AUT has in mind, but the precise form of the action will be chosen in the light of circumstances.
Report on Negotiations
The AUT met our employers’ representatives (the UCEA) on 19th March. The AUT presented our claim (which was summarised in your copy of the Pay Manifesto). The UCEA then made an offer which AUT rejected. The offer was 3% on all salary points; they did not address any of other aspects of the claim such as the need to reduce casualisation and to close the gender gap in pay.
In presenting the claim, the General Secretary focused on a number of issues, which included the unique contribution which academic and related staff make to higher education, the erosion of pay, casualisation, the gender gap in pay, staff development and London weighting.
In their response the UCEA, whilst acknowledging the contribution of higher education staff and the shortfall in salaries compared to other comparable professions and public sector workers, reverted to the old argument of government funding. And as in the 1996/97 salary discussions they wanted to delay talking about casualisation and gender issues. This time, they wanted to wait until the Bett Committee reported. Specifically, casualisation was an issue for individual institutions and would be discussed following Bett recommendations, and, for the gender gap, discussions would take place in another forum following the outcomes of Bett. Staff development and London weighting were issues for individual institutions.
In the past year’s salary negotiations, the AUT presented the claim and the UCEA made an initial response. Then a date was fixed for another meeting in which to hear their offer. This year the UCEA made an offer immediately following the presentation. This shows their desire to settle before the Bett Committee reports. [Academic and related staff are likely to be very upset by some of the Bett recommendation.]
The offer of 3% falls far short of this year’s demand of an interim payment aimed at resolving the salary erosion. The AUT also does not wish to see the other aspects of the claim put off yet again. So the AUT’s immediate response was to refuse the offer and to inform the employer’s side that it would still go ahead with the industrial action ballot of the pre-1992 sector because there would not be a settlement by the due date, 1st April. Another meeting for Tuesday 13th April has been arranged and we hope to include a brief report in this Newsletter.
Why You Should Vote "Yes, Yes"
It is important to appreciate that we are unlikely to resolve the long-term erosion of academic and related salaries without showing how angry we are in a public way. Though many members of AUT may be reluctant to take industrial action, it is clear that this is the only way in which we can make ourselves heard.
The AUT has struggled on behalf of its members for many years to argue the case for staff in HE, often with politicians and employers who are either disbelieving or uncaring. The one thing that has been admitted in negotiations this time is that your productivity has risen in recent years, while accepting that relative salaries have declined. Over ten years national student numbers have doubled while staff numbers have increased by less than 15%. Over the last 18 years pay has increased by a mere 3.1% in real terms — school teachers have done fifteen times better. Yet despite saying that they understand the problem, our employers still made an offer below all other comparable public sector groups whose pay is determined through pay review.
Now is the right time to show, through a high vote for industrial action, that we are not prepared to tolerate this situation any longer. Dramatically increasing productivity, rising workloads and declining pay, is clearly not a formula that can be sustained. As long as we do sustain it without complaint, politicians and employers will keep their fingers crossed and look the other way. They are looking for an excuse to cherry-pick the parts of the Dearing and Bett reports that they like and ignore the necessary funding.
It has gone on too long. Now is the time to act. The AUT asks all its members to support this campaign to press home the case for better salaries and better working conditions in universities and colleges. When the ballot comes please vote and please vote yes for action. Only in that way will we show that the time has come to call a halt to the erosion of academic and related salaries and job satisfaction.
The Bett Committee
First we thought that the Dearing Committee would solve the problems of universities. But it said that the crucial issue of salaries should be dealt with by a one-off pay review body. After a great deal of foot dragging by the Government, this was set up by our employers and is called the Bett Committee. This committee has repeatedly missed deadlines for the completion of its work and its report will now be issued in late May at the earliest. The committee has failed to agree, and the report will be written by the chairman and the independent members. The government will not provide any extra money within the period of the present comprehensive spending review, so the proposals would come into effect in 2002, if ever.
As I understand it, Bett proposes a single pay spine covering from porters up to (and now including) professors, with job evaluation for everyone. Pay would be negotiated at a single table with possibly sub-groups for the five "academic" pay ranges and for the eight "non-academic" pay ranges. The five "academic" ranges would roughly correspond to Researchers, Lecturer A, Lecturer B, Senior Lecturer and Professor. However, only Administrative, Library and Computer staff of present grade 3 and above would be mapped onto these scales by job comparison. The other present academic related staff would be put onto "non-academic" scales. An individual’s pay would be made up of a short pay scale plus points for qualifications, points for responsibility and an unlimited amount of "performance" related pay. And they set out to make pay simpler!
Check Our Web-sites
You can keep up to date on AUT matters including the pay campaign by visiting our web-sites. The address of the Belfast AUT home page is http://quis.qub.ac.uk/aut but it is also accessible from the QUB home page via Affiliations and then Associations. The national AUT web-site address is http://www.aut.org.uk and this will be the best source of pay news. This web-site has a search engine that enables you to search AUT documents for the topic of your choice.
QUB has a well established pattern in each financial year of initially forecasting break-even or a slight deficit. Then as we move through the actual year the financial situation improves, mainly from savings from the slow filling of staff vacancies and other under-spending. At the end of the year we usually squirrel away some money in provisions for future expenditure on long-term maintenance or restructuring and declare a slight surplus.
The same is happening this year with our forecast surplus which was £1,587,000 in November having grown to £3,425,000 in March. This is despite a decrease in investment income. Special savings occur this year because there have been fewer early retirement or severance payments than forecast. In addition the appointment of new academic staff is behind schedule partly due to blockages in the appointment process, but mainly due to a shortage of suitably qualified applicants willing to work for the money offered.
Another special factor is that we will soon have to comply with a new accounting standard on provisions, which means that we must estimate commitment to future expenditure more accurately. £2.04M of the reported improvement is due to this book-keeping adjustment.
Academic Plan – Meetings with Targeted Staff
Members of staff who are not in closing departments but have received offers of early retirement or severance and have not applied for second stage review, will have received invitations to attend a consultative meeting with Bob Smith, Director of Human Resources. We advise those wishing to attend such meetings that they should be accompanied by an AUT officer. Ring Patricia at the AUT office 3090 for an appointment. Alternatively, contact one of the AUT officers directly. Contact numbers are: Paul Hudson ex 3157; Max Goldstrom, 665796; Richard Jay, ex 3653; John Lynch, ex 3985 and Renee Prendergast, ex 3292.
Research Findings of "Research Inactive" Staff Reported in National Press
It is not often that research is of sufficient general interest to make the national newspapers. When it does, it is always a pleasant surprise to find that the research is being done at Queen’s by people one knows even slightly. It is even more interesting when one knows that the researcher in question has been offered early retirement as part of Queen’s strategy for improving its research.
AUT Women’s Conference
The annual meeting of the women’s committee was held in London on March 4th. Lynn Press and Renee Prendergast attended on behalf of BAUT. The general secretary presented new statistical evidence showing a substantial pay gap which increased with age between the male and the female members of academic and related staff. It seems likely that the gap has something to do with failure of employers to provide a working environment which allows women to combine work and family responsibilities in a satisfactory manner. The Belfast motion addressed this issue in a small way by requesting that the AUT make representations to HEFCE to the effect that provision be made for the recording of maternity leave in RAE returns. On our initiative, the motion was composited with a similar motion from Liverpool which was then passed unanimously and selected for forwarding to May Council. We also proposed an emergency motion opposing the taxation of Child Benefit. The motion was also passed and clearly had an immediate impact on Gordon Brown !!!
Seminar on Sexual Orientation
This year’s national seminar on sexual orientation and employment in higher education will be held in London on 23 April. Interested members can register in confidence by contacting Samira Mackenzie at AUT HQ (#6 223).
Renewal of Contracts
After my recent comments about the treatment of staff employed on non-standard contracts, a number of interesting points were raised by members of staff. In particular there is the question of just how long a person should be on a temporary contract before the University should consider making their position more permanent? We are interested in collecting information on this matter and in particular would like to hear from anybody who has been employed on short-term contracts for seven years or more?
Write/Phone John Lynch, Local Issues Secretary
Special General Meeting
Wednesday 28 April at 1.05 p.m.
In Room 212, Central Teaching
Pay and the Action Ballot
3.5% "Full and Final Offer"
The AUT met the UCEA again on 13th April. The employers once more refused to address any salary matter other than an across the board percentage increase. They made a "full and final offer" of 3.5%. The AUT rejected this trivial improvement for all the reasons that I have given earlier in this Newsletter. The UCEA said that they would recommend to universities that they impose the payment. The UCEA were meeting with MSF a few hours later and were expected to make the same offer to them, which would probably be rejected.
Nothing has changed except that the employers have plainly demonstrated their callousness.
Vote "Yes, Yes"