Produced by Belfast Association of University Teachers Issue No 13 October 1999
The AUT National Executive on 27th October suspended the industrial action that had started in May. The suspension is until AUT Council meets on 15th December, but it is unlikely that the action would be re-imposed then. Members should resume normal working, but any unreasonable demands to clear backlogged duties (e.g. appraisal) should be reported to us and we will raise it with senior management.
AUT met the employers on 22nd October and further discussions on details have continued since. I do not yet know the full details of the potential settlement and can only report on the 22nd October meeting.
On the question of a general pay increase, AUT argued that the recently reduced cost of the employers USS pension contributions had not been recouped by the Treasury and was therefore available for staff salaries. The employers did not accept that these funds rightly accrued to the staff. After further discussion there was no agreement on pay, but the employers did accept that in the joint submission to the Governments forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review, the need to address long standing pay grievances in HE institutions would be included. They also said that in their submission recruitment and retention issues and equal pay for work of equal value would be a major focus.
The employers were willing to establish two working parties to look at those aspects of our claim relating to pay discrimination against women and ethnic minorities, and the casualisation of employment. It was agreed that programs of work needed to achieve real and timely progress. Further drafting work is being done to expedite this process.
On pay discrimination, the employers agreed that urgent work is required to ensure equal pay for work of equal value, but stated that to redress the lack of women in senior posts would take some time. Both sides believe that the Commission on University Career Opportunity should be involved in the discrimination working party and that the CVCP’s Research Careers Initiative should take part in the work on casualisation. AUT pointed out that the problem of casualisation did not solely apply to research staff and the employers accepted this.
Our pay campaign and related events have put the question of university pay high on the political agenda. The publication of the Bett report and the substantial pay increase awarded by the Welcome Trust to its scientists, together with a high degree of media interest, means that now is a good time to press our case. With a general election in mind, the Government has initiated a second Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR II) for the years 2001-4. It is important that we seize this opportunity to influence this vital budgeting process.
As part of the pay settlement, UCEA, CVCP and SCOP have agreed to develop a joint submission to the CRS II with the higher education trade unions. This will be based on the need to fund the implementation of the Bett report. There will be an event in London on 1st December involving all unions and employer organisations to present this case. The AUT will submit its own statement to the DfEE before Christmas.
Local Associations are being asked to organise meetings with MPs and to urge universities to make joint submissions to CRS II with their Local Association. Of course our local politicians are preoccupied with other matters, but should an Administration be formed it will present a wonderful opportunity for lobbying. Local Associations will be supplied with campaign packs and also model letters to be sent to MPs. In the new year there is the proposed inquiry into higher education by the House of Commons Select Committee, and AUT will make a submission to this.
NUS are organising a ‘march for education’ in London on 25 November and AUT and NATFHE are supporting this.
Full details of the political campaign will be in AUT Update in early November.
Heads of School have been asked to provide Deans with a list of all academic staff indicating who is being recommended for discretionary payments at the top of the scale or accelerated increments up their scale. Where a positive recommendation is not being made, Heads of School are being asked to indicate the reason for this. The information has to be provided by 12 November. Since you cannot make application for these awards, it is important that you make sure that your Head of School’s decision is based on up-to-date information.
We are told that progress has been made on devising a scheme for academic related staff, but the proposals have not yet been discussed with AUT.
Recently I seem to have spent rather a lot of time listening to various individuals in this university using the word ‘academic’ in a strangely restrictive way. This is particularly so when they say that academic staff not submitted for the RAE should be given ‘academic-related’ contracts despite these people having a heavy commitment to teaching and to the institution. For many of us this is no longer simply a matter of intellectual interest, but rather a matter that has come to affect our careers and livelihoods. The old trick of looking the definition up in the dictionary has not been a great deal of help either — ‘belonging to an academy or other institution of learning’. Of course in this caring supportive institution we all ‘belong’, but sadly many of us are no longer considered to be ‘academic’.
The definition appears to have shifted since Plato's day. In the new Athens it is writing that makes the academic, in the suitably prestigious journals of course, not such dated ideas as learning or teaching. According to those who worship mammon, in his insidious new persona of the RAE, the academics are no longer they who learn but rather they who earn. This is perhaps a reasonable definition of academic activity if it is studied through the medium of the balance sheet, but is it really sufficient? Is it possible, or indeed moral, to simply reduce the value of an academic to their earning power? Where does scholarship and teaching appear, until of course the rules are changed and funding becomes dependent upon teaching assessments? Still I'm sure our leaders know what they are doing, since after all they are academics.
For once these are not human! The Senior Officers of the University are busy setting goals, objectives and targets for Pro-Vice-Chancellors, Deans and the major administrative units. There is a hierarchy of these flowing from the University’s Mission Statement and they will be revised each year. The AUT Officers were given a preview of these last week together with a list of the achievements of the last year. The V-C is planning to include these in an address all staff and lunch-time on 11th November is pencilled in.
QUB has to submit to the Government its financial plans for the next five years. The assumptions that it chose to build into the calculations are interesting. The assumptions are that staff pay will only keep pace with inflation, that staff numbers will not increase after this year, and that student numbers will grow at 3% per annum. When I pointed out in Academic Council what a further 15% increase in workload for the same real pay would do for staff morale, I was accused of making gloomy predictions. The point is that these are the management’s predictions and they will become the established position against which we will have to argue. However, I got no support from anyone else on Academic Council. I attribute that to the Heads of Schools and other office holders seeing their role as only to protect their narrow interests; they rarely risk getting to their feet on issues of general concern.
The management are keen to reduce the size of Academic Council. (See "The End of Collegiality" Newsletter November 1998.) You are invited to make submissions to Rosemary Simpson, Acting Secretary of Academic Council, on the role, size, composition and operational effectiveness of Academic Council. At the moment Academic Council the main groups are the heads of Schools and institutes, Deans and other office holders and members elected by the faculties. De facto many of these ‘elected’ places have been reserved for Assistant Deans and Advisors of Studies. Membership is limited to full-time academic staff.
Questions that I would particularly like you to address are: how can we get younger staff involved (and will it harm their careers); should fixed-term and part-time staff be involved; should membership be extended to research staff and/or other staff closely associated with teaching such as library and computing staff; the need for a wider view-point other than those seeing their role as representing their School/Faculty; and how the big issues should be debated in the academic community.
There are also plans under discussion to radically change the composition and size of Senate (the governing body). Your views on this matter should be sent to me.
Most university staff on fixed-term contracts are required by their employers to sign waivers that remove from them some of their rights under employment law. The lost rights are commonly the right to claim unfair dismissal if the contract is terminated early, and the right to a redundancy payment if the contract terminates without further employment. From 25th October the waiver on unfair dismissal will be unlawful in GB. The legislation will be extended to Northern Ireland by an Order in Council. This applies to all new or renewed contracts after that date, but we will be pressing for the university to apply it to existing contracts.
We will continue the campaign to remove the redundancy pay waiver. The European Directive on fixed-term contracts has now been adopted and the UK has two years in which to implement it. However the Government has stated that it does not regard the ability to waive redundancy rights to be in conflict with the directive which requires that there should be no discrimination against workers as a consequence of them being employed under a fixed-term contract. This will be disputed. The directive requires that fixed-term contracts should only be used for objective reasons (yet to be defined). We will press the management on this. We have some hope locally that the use of bridging funds to fill gaps between contracts will become more common and that there will be a more systematic search for redeployment within Queen’s.
A provision in the Act quadruples the maximum compensation the maximum that can be awarded by a employment tribunal to any unfairly dismissed employee. In the case of whistleblowing, when an employee acts in the public interest and is subsequently unfairly dismissed, there will be no limit to the possible compensation.
This is the new e-mail address of the Belfast AUT office. The phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the individual Committee members are on our web-site.
We have received reports that the Personnel Department is not issuing Hay evaluation forms. We understand that the delay is because new forms are being devised which will make it easier for staff who have already been evaluated to define their new job. In the meantime anyone who wants to submit his or her job for evaluation can request an electronic version of the original Hay Form from George Dunn (firstname.lastname@example.org) which they should then complete and submit to the Personnel Department in the usual way.
Wednesday 17th November at 1.05 p.m.
in W100 Lanyon South
1. Minutes of the previous meeting and matters arising.
2. Approval of the audited accounts of Belfast AUT.
3. The Pay Campaign.
4. Any Other business for AUT Council.
5. Local Problems.
Members who wish to know more about their pension scheme are invited to three informal meetings during lunch hours. The meetings will be from 1 to 2 p.m. in room 1.20 Staircase R South Lanyon and you can bring your sandwiches. Your questions will be fielded by Max Goldstrom, our local pensions expert and a Director of USS. Advanced notice of questions will be appreciated. If you wish to attend any of the sessions please contact Patricia McKnight on ext. 3090.
Monday 15 Nov. What does USS provide?
Monday 22 Nov. Additional Voluntary Contributions
Monday 29 Nov. Early Retirement and Ill-Health Retirement
George Dunn, Assistant Secretary