Issue No 7May 2001
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Membership Ballot on the Pay Offer

At its May Council AUT decided nem con to put the pay offer to a membership ballot with a recommendation for acceptance. The offer is a package made to all employees in Higher Education jointly. We sent out a summary of the pay offer to departmental representative for display. You can read the full text on www.aut.org.uk or from Paul Hudson, extn 3157. Ballot material will arrive soon as all unions have to reply by 25 June. The motion passed at AUT Council said:

"The implications of the proposals are far-reaching and represent a radical reform of industrial relations and pay bargaining in higher education. In particular, the proposals include:

A basic increase in salary levels equivalent in value to that received by most occupational groups that are subject to pay review bodies and better than other public sector settlements
Retention of pay arrangements which cover all higher education institutions throughout the UK
A revision of the pay bargaining structure which includes one bargaining committee covering academic and academic-related staff in pre-1992 institutions, together with all other academic staff
A commitment to review pay discrimination and to produce advice for institutions on the removal of such disparities
A commitment to review pay structures for all higher education staff
A commitment to review job grading arrangements in order to ensure equal pay for work of equal value.

 

"Council agrees that these proposals place the association in the strongest possible position to represent the interests of members as part of the review process described. Council therefore instructs executive to conduct a ballot of all relevant members to determine support for these proposals. Furthermore Council recommends to all members that these proposals are supported in the ballot.

"Council notes that these proposals do not make reference to the establishment of an independent pay review body. This is a matter for regret. However they do present a move forward and until such a time as a pay review body can be achieved, they provide an opportunity to improve member’s salaries. thus while supporting these new pay arrangement, the association will continue to campaign for a pay review body in the long term."

 

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Academic Appraisal

Belfast AUT is still in discussions with the university management on some aspects of this, particularly the use to which the completed forms can be put. We expect to finalise matters soon and will report fully in the next Newsletter.. In the meantime we advise any members submitting Appraisal forms or having an Appraisal interview to consult Paul Hudson or Renee Prendergast first.

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RAE — Openness and Responsibility

The University’s strategic approach to the research assessment exercise was to pursue the highest achievable grade in each subject submitted. The argument for doing this rather than choosing the grade and volume combination which yield the highest level of expected QR income, is that high RAE grades make it easier to attract additional research monies. It is also claimed that it makes it easier to attract good quality staff. The strategy adopted by our high command makes sense provided that untapped sources of research income exist. But there are also risks attached. First, there is the demoralisation suffered by research active staff who are left out of the RAE entry for strategic reasons. Secondly, there is the risk that the higher grade will not be realised, with serious consequences for QR income. Thirdly, there are subjects where the prospects of attracting additional research funds are severely limited.

Universities are institutions dedicated to the free discussion of academic matters. It is important for everyone that the right decisions were made about grade and volume, even if this is inherently difficult. We are, therefore, disturbed to hear some Heads of School complain that that the worst possible combination was chosen without consulting them. They may be wrong of course – let’s hope so. Several ordinary members of staff have also complained to us about secrecy and lack of consultation. The financial differentials between the various grades have not been published (Why?), and the number of shares in the fixed pot of gold is yet to be determined, and so the financial outcomes can only be guessed. Everybody understands that forecasting grades is not an exact science, and there are likely to be surprises. When the financial outcome of the RAE becomes apparent, we will give credit to those who made the decisions if things turn out well, even though we would prefer more open government. If the outcome is not as good as expected, many academics will be convinced that it could have been better if only their opinions had been heeded. Who will then admit responsibility?

Paul Hudson/Renee Prendergast

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News from DHFETE

North/South co-operation

There has been a lot of emphasis recently from DHFETE on North/South co-operation. At a meeting on the 18 April Sean Farren commented that: "The development of North/South co-operation in relation to higher and further education is very high on both my personal and political agenda. In recent months I have met with the Republic’s Minister of Education, Dr Michael Woods and agreed an agenda to be taken forward which includes: improving and building upon university networks; promoting and facilitating lecturer exchanges and mobility; credit accumulation and transfer and sharing of information and communications technology."

Dr Farren also emphasised the importance of North-South Education links during a visit to the National College of Ireland, on 25 April. "Ensuring the best possible provision of, and overcoming barriers to, education is vital to the economic, cultural and social future of this island. The Northern Ireland Executive has recognised that investing in education and skills must play a crucial role in our Programme for Government. We recognise that we can learn from sharing our experience with others. That is why the North-South links we are developing, are so important."

Globalisation

"Globalisation has transformed the economic and social conditions in which we live, with higher education at the centre of these developments," Dr Sean Farren said. The Minister was speaking at St Mary’s University College, where he welcomed to Belfast a trade mission from the Massachusetts Port Authority, which was hosting the event as a direct result of educational links they have established with the United States.

Dr Farren added: "World class higher education ensures that countries can grow and sustain high-skill businesses, and attract the most highly-skilled people. It endows people with creative and moral capacities, thinking skills and knowledge that underpin our economic competitiveness and our wider quality of life."

Regional Office

 

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Brave New World

Our annual conference, AUT Council, was held on 16 – 19 May. The motions that are debated are often turgid essays, but the one below is worth reproducing because of the stark picture it paints of the brave new world being planned by big business and some Vice-Chancellors.

"Commercialisation of higher education is an aspect of globalisation that has direct consequences for the pay, terms and conditions of AUT members, and the freedom of their work in both teaching and research. The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) of the WTO treats HE as an ‘educational product’. It is designed specifically to eliminate barriers to trade in services, allowing ‘suppliers’ to pursue commerce in HE without regard to public good, academic freedom, quality of programme or conditions of employment, thus helping multinational companies to turn public services into commodities.

"Council recognises the dangers to the quality of education, the quality of the student experience, the value of qualifications, and the conditions of service of academic staff which could arise from a wholly unregulated free market in higher education. It affirms the historic principle that education is primarily a public good, and not simply a commodity. In particular the universal acceptance of all degrees, qualifications, institutions of higher education, modes of delivery and staff employment practices as having equivalence of recognition could endanger the repute of UK higher education by leading, except in a very few prestigious institutions, to a reduction to the lowest common denominator.

"Council is already familiar with the out-sourcing of academic services, with the mortgaging of the future through PFI (Private Finance Initiative), with distortion of long-term planning to meet short-term business demands and with constraints on freedom of inquiry by private funding of research. Opening the sector to GATS, as requested by the United States and encouraged by the EU and Britain, will only make things worse; it will endanger HE as a public service, and will reduce the capacity of governments to direct and regulate public services in the public good.

"Council reaffirms AUT’s commitment to HE as a public service. Council therefore asks the government to recognise that commercialisation puts at risk the very qualities that have won worldwide respect for HE in Britain and calls on government to refrain from committing the HE sector under GATS, and to resist measures intended to commercialise both teaching and research. Furthermore, Council resolves to work together with other trade unions, Education International and interested groups to keep public services public and to keep them out of GATS, and instructs the Executive to give appropriate support to peaceful protests and opposition to GATS."

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Legal Aid

Whenever you have a problem arising from your work AUT will help you with it and, if necessary, we will take legal advice or legal action, although action by your local officers is usually quicker and more effective. For a couple of years AUT has also provided a national Legal Helpline on 0990 234 500. Now the solicitors who handle AUT work locally, Francis Hanna and Company, are offering a legal helpline on 0800 80 80 60. The call and the first consultation are free. They cover Matrimonial and property matters, probate, accidents on the road or in public places, criminal injury and medical negligence.

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Summer School For Fixed-Term Staff

For further details of this year’s summer school, please contact Paul Hudson, or alternatively, to register directly with AUT head office, please contact Samira Mackenzie, Conference Organiser, at: E-mail: sam.mackenzie@aut.org.uk; phone: 020 7670 9700. Further information and a booking form is available on the association’s website: www.aut.org.uk/who/crsfns/summerschool.html.

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AGM and Call for Nominations

The Annual General Meeting of Belfast AUT will take place on 27th June at 1.05 p.m. in room W100, Lanyon North. The meeting will be addressed by the National President, Alan Carr. The meeting will consider changes to local rules to bring them into line with national requirements. We will also hear reports from the outgoing Officers and elect the bulk of the AUT Committee. (The rest are elected by constituency elections in at Christmas.) I therefore invite nomination for the following positions:

  • The President
  • The Honorary Secretary
  • The Secretary for Local Issues
  • The Assistant Honorary Secretary
  • The Honorary Treasurer
  • The Membership Secretary
  • 4 General Members

All the present incumbents are eligible for re-election, although the President normally serves for two years only. The duties of the various offices are laid down in the rules, and, if you are interested, you can discuss what is really involved with me.

Nominations shall be made with the written consent of the nominee either by the Committee or by any two members of the Local Association. They should be sent to me by 4 p.m. on Wednesday 13h June.

Paul Hudson, Honorary Secretary

© 2001 Belfast Association of University Teachers
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