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Produced by Belfast Association of University Teachers Issue No 3 February 1999

Contents

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Notice of General Meeting on 3rd march

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Targeted Staff

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Accelerated Increments and the Use of Discretionary Points

Courses for Members

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Non-Standard Contracts

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Vote! Vote! Vote!

reddot.gif (924 bytes)Pay

reddot.gif (924 bytes)AUT and the Assembly


contents

General Meeting
Wednesday 3 March at 1.05 p.m.

In Room 210, Central Teaching Facility

Agenda

      1. Latest News on Pay and Pay Machinery
      2. The Academic Plan and its Consequences
      3. Business for AUT Council
      4. Any Other Business

 

 


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Accelerated Increments and the Use of Discretionary Points

Academic staff who read to the bottom of the letter announcing the annual promotions round will know that the University intends to reintroduce the awarding of accelerated increments within scale and to start to use the discretionary points at the top of the Lecturer B and Senior Lecturer Scales. Renee Prendergast and Paul Hudson have discussed the proposals with Bob Smith and, while we welcome anything that puts more money into the pockets of some members, we have doubts about many aspects.

You will remember that in the early 90's the Government insisted in several annual pay awards that some money was top-sliced to be paid to a minority of staff purely at the management's discretion. In QUB this gave rise to annual merit awards of various sizes which were paid disproportionately to people in managerial positions. Women also did disproportionately badly, and this caused the Equal Opportunities Commission to step in. QUB did not draw up a fair system of rewarding merit, but abandoned payments to individuals in favour of a percentage lump sum paid to all academic and related staff each October. The control of this pot of money was purely in the hands of the management, and it was gradually eroded, and finally last year it was wiped out to pay for the restructuring consequent on the Academic Plan.

The management see their proposals as a means of rewarding people who are making a significant contribution but who do not qualify for promotion. However the criteria are being set so high that many who get an award would, on our interpretation of national criteria, qualify for promotion. So some may regard their award as a sop. Accelerated increments will also be used to remove anomalies where staff were inappropriately placed on the salary scale at appointment, or where subsequent appointments put them in an anomalous position. We are all in favour of reducing anomalies, especially if it reduces the gender gap in salaries, but the basis of comparison is not transparent and the present proposals do not apply to the area with the worst anomalies - the professoriate. There is one other management reason to make a payment of either kind and that is 'retention'. This may a short-term answer to poaching, but it is likely to cause fresh anomalies.

Our major criticism of the proposals is that there is no self application. Without that there is a risk of an abuse of patronage, and there must be doubts about the accuracy of the information provided by managers. (Look at the Academic Plan!) If you think that you deserve any of these payments you should approach your line manager; you ought then be invited to fill up the form used for promotions. Because these specific applicants will be joined by those who are considered for it instead of promotion, the decision-making bodies and timetable are to be the same as for promotions. This means that once the scheme is finalised there will be little time to complete the form, so start bending the ear of your line manager now!

The proposals will be put to the Equal Opportunity Commission for approval, and, considering QUB's past, the scrutiny may be lengthy. The scheme will revised after a year in light of experience. Ominously, the University also wants to radically revise the promotion procedures next year. The pressure is likely to be towards raising the criteria and making the system more managerial.

The management say that they would like to introduce a scheme to reward good performance by academic related staff, but find difficulty in reconciling it with Hay. No proposals have reached us yet.

Paul Hudson


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Non-Standard Contracts

The Association recently held a meeting of staff employed on fixed-term or hourly contracts. While in many ways a very positive event, there is a profoundly worrying issue within this group of staff. Although some staff are happy to be employed in this way, many others feel exploited. For most teaching and research staff employed by the term or even by the hour, and those employed in a similar manner on library or support functions, their direct employers are not the University but a member of staff. To put it bluntly, some of the abuse of casual teaching and support staff is practised by individuals, some of whom are members of the AUT!

I can almost hear some colleagues saying, 'We had to go through it - that is how you begin an academic career', but I would ask you to consider if this is really a justification. We are all unhappy about threats to academic freedom and employment security, but are some members of the AUT guilty of employing a double standard? How many of us bemoan the treatment of full-time academic staff under the restructuring, and then treat postgraduates or casual staff in a similar, or on occasion worse, manner?

If you are employing temporary or casual staff it is necessary to ask a simple question. Would you would like to be employed on the conditions you are imposing on others? If you find the answer is no, or if you feel uncertain, then perhaps you should consider your attitudes and methods. On a moral level we should all seek to create happiness and contentment amongst others, particularly if we have a degree of influence in their lives. However, beyond this there is simple self-interest, remember that perhaps as many as 40% of the staff of this institution are on non-standard employment agreements. If their conditions worsen, this could drag down the standards for everyone.

Although perhaps unfashionable in this 'New Labour' age, I would remind you all of the great rule of trade unionism - 'Unity is Strength'. By protecting the weakest and improving their conditions of employment, we protect everybody in this institution.

John Lynch

[Personnel have given us the following figures for fixed term academic and related staff in QUB: Research 339, Academic 100, Teaching assistants/graduate demonstrators 19, Administration 20, Library 2, Computer 13 and Other related staff 34. This means that about 37% of the academic and related staff in QUB are employed on fixed term contracts. The University was unable to give us the numbers of people employed hourly or on a casual basis as many of these are not recorded centrally.]


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Pay

You have all been sent the AUT Pay Manifesto; please sign it and return it to me, Paul Hudson, c/o AUT Office, Secretarial Centre, Admin. There is further information on pay in the latest AUT Update. The Bett report is now expected to be available about the third week of April. Hope of getting a report that has been agreed by all the committee has been abandoned, and the report will be written by just the independent members of the committee. It will then form the starting point for negotiations with the employers. Any Government funding required may have to wait at least until the next government comprehensive spending review.


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Targeted Staff

Renee Prendergast, Richard Jay, Paul Hudson and Brian Everett met with senior officers of QUB on 18 February to discuss the position of those who had been offered early retirement or severance. We started with the departments scheduled to be closed. (Several departments have, with AUT representation, made appeals to the Board of Visitors against their closure, but the out-come is not known yet.) In Geology QUB is making imaginative proposals to help some members of staff move to other employment, and some others will be redeployed in Queen's, but this will not accommodate all the staff. We pressed for, and were given, a promise of a flexible approach to these. The V-C and Malcolm Andrew are to meet with the students and staff in Geology soon. If the departure of staff leaves gaps in the teaching, urgent attempts to recruit temporary staff will be made. The staff in the other departments were being dealt with on an individual basis. There will be developments soon concerning the School of Management.

The letters to three staff in Dentistry have been withdrawn pending the outcome of the review of clinical medicine and dentistry. The fact that many staff are also employed by the Health Trusts makes the contractual situation difficult. As yet, there is no indication when proposals for redevelopment will be made. The University believes that medicine is under-funded compared to GB departments and is pressing all the relevant parties to have this situation rectified.

Overall, about one third of targeted staff are leaving or have left, just over one sixth have been re-included for the Research Assessment Exercise and removed from the list, about one sixth are making other arrangements within QUB, and the positions of the remaining one third are unresolved. A few people are still exploring more imaginative schemes for redeployment or change of employment. Some people who want longer periods of part-time re-employment will be made new offers in April when the Second Stage has finished. There are a few option 3 type positions still available and they will be advertised internally soon.

All those targeted staff who are not in contact with the University about their future will receive a letter from Bob Smith soon. This will be an invitation to an individual meeting and you can be accompanied by an AUT representative and/or Sean Fulton. We have no reason to believe that pressure will be put upon you but, if you decide that you want a meeting, we strongly advise you to take an AUT Officer.

Paul Hudson


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Courses for Members

The AUT offers training to its members so that they can play a more effective role in protecting their own and colleagues' interests. The courses are usually in GB, but AUT will pay travel and subsistence.

Anyone interested in the following one-day courses should contact me Paul Hudson :

Racial Discrimination

3 March 1999

Employment Law Update

14 April 1999

 

QUB also organises various Health and Safety courses which can be booked on ext 5042/3007. Amongst these are:

Departmental Safety Advisors Course A (2 day)

4 & 5 March 1999

Departmental Safety Advisors Course B (1 day)

11 March 1999

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (CoSHH)

27 May 1999

Finally, I would like to remind members of the many courses put on by QUB Staff Development Unit. In particular:

Equal Opportunities Discussion Group - Gender

25 February 1999

Equal Opportunities Discussion Group - Race

15 March 1999

Equal Opportunities Discussion Group - Bully and Harassment

19 April 1999

 


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Vote! Vote! Vote!

You will soon receive ballot papers for the election of members of the AUT National Executive and the AUT National Officers. We urge you to use your vote. When AUT first started membership elections the turnout was high, but it has drifted down until only about 25% of the membership vote. Yet the problems facing AUT have not declined, and the need for good Officers and members of the National Executive has not decreased. Use your vote to elect experienced people who reflect your views; they are in a much stronger position when facing the Government or employers if they can demonstrate a clear mandate. Read the election statements carefully, you may even recognise some of the names.

 


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AUT and the Assembly

Under the auspices of the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee of AUT ( NIAC), the regional office has organised meetings with the education spokespersons of the various political parties to make them aware of AUT's priorities for Higher Education in Northern Ireland and to learn something of the different parties thinking. So far we have met with delegations from the Ulster Unionist Party, the SDLP and Sinn Fein. Meetings were also organised with Alliance and the Women's Coalition but these were postponed due to illness. We are still trying to arrange meetings with the DUP and PUP.

All three parties agreed with AUT that there was a need for additional student places in Northern Ireland. They questioned us closely on our views as to how subject areas should be selected for expansion and where the expansion should take place in the medium term and in the longer term. It was clear from our discussions that the parties were concerned to improve access to higher education throughout the whole of the province, and were interested in the role of franchising in this context. The SDLP, in particular, were aware of the need to provide adequate funding for higher education places in FE colleges. Sinn Fein were concerned about how government approaches to welfare impacted on access to Higher Education.

While all the parties recognised the value of Higher Education and the need to maintain an adequate level of funding, none regarded extra funding for Higher Education as a major priority. On the research front, both the SDLP and Sinn Fein were of the opinion that there was considerable scope for increasing the proportion of its funds which higher education derived from the private sector.

All in all, we have the impression that there are interesting times ahead. The parties want to maintain a high quality higher education sector, but they also want the sector to accessible and responsive to local need. The research assessment exercise will remain important as an independent assessment of research quality, but it seems likely that our new political masters will demand much more than high scores in the RAE.

Renee Prendergast