Issue No 2 February 2001
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Progress on Pay

A meeting took place on 6 February between representatives of all campus unions convened by the TUC and the employers’ organisation the University and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA). This followed the campaigning activities of recent weeks and the industrial action by other unions, as well as intensive behind the scenes lobbying of leading members of Universities UK (formerly the CVCP). The meeting followed the informal talks of 11 January, since when the employers had consulted with subscribing institutions and obtained a mandate for further discussions. The employers said at the outset that they had obtained "a very thin mandate" from subscribing institutions to continue the talks.

The discussions centred on two key issues. Firstly the unresolved pay situation of 2000 and the proposal by the unions that negotiations for 2000/01 and 2001/02 should be pursued together. Secondly there was the proposal by the TUC for new negotiating structures following the recommendations of the Bett Report.

The employers agreed that they were willing to discuss pay for the two years although they insisted that from their point of view there was no further money available for a general increase above the 3% already offered and imposed. They did say that they wished related issues including the movement to a common settlement date for all groups of staff to be included in the discussions.

The employers were willing to look further at the TUC proposals for new negotiating structures but they insisted that there were a number of issues to be considered in detail and an intensive programme of discussions would need to be arranged. The trade unions were anxious to ensure that any such discussions kept to a tight timetable. In the end it was agreed that talks would commence as soon as possible with a target to complete discussions by the end of March when proposals should be available for consultation. The objective of the talks is agreement on:

  1. clear detailed recommendations on the establishment of new national bargaining machinery for the sector; and
  2. recommendations to resolve the current dispute and the approach to pay in the sector for 2001/02.

In response to the employers’ commitment to urgent talks on the two principal issues, those unions taking industrial action agreed to suspend the action as soon as the programme of talks commenced. This is expected to be 14 February.

Based on a circular by David Triesman

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Fixed Term Contract Staff

A new scheme was reported to December Senate whereby staff on fixed term contracts who have seven years continuous service would be offered permanent contracts as long as the work on which they were employed was continuing. By permanent is meant as permanent as the rest of us who do not have old-style tenure. This welcome development (effective from June 2000) has the support of AUT and other unions at Queen’s. The full wording is:

  1. The University will recognise the long-term continuous employment of staff who have achieved seven years or more service by June 2000 by transferring these staff to permanent contracts subject to confirmation from the Dean of the Faculty or Head of Administrative Department.
  2. Fixed term contracts will not normally be approved in circumstances where the funding is from a general University source.
  3. All fixed term contracts should contain a clause, which indicates the possibility for renewal or permanency, subject to the availability of funding.
  4. A comprehensive redeployment procedure should be developed for staff employed under fixed term contracts.
  5. The principles of the Concordat for research staff should be extended to include all fixed term contract staff.

At our recent meeting of fixed term contract staff, it was clear that implementation of the new policy was somewhat patchy and that many eligible staff have not yet been transferred to permanent contracts. We have raised this with University management and they have agreed to take steps to ensure wider implementation of the new policy. It will assist this process, if we can bring failures of implementation to their attention. We, therefore, ask you to bring the new policy to the attention of any long serving member of fixed term staff and tell them to contact AUT. There are about 100 staff who have been employed on regular and renewable contracts in excess of seven years. Only about a quarter of these have been made permanent so far. The policy does not apply to staff employed on a term time basis, or staff engaged as casual teaching assistants, but separate exercises may be undertaken for these staff.

Work remains to be done on the development of an effective redeployment procedure. We expect to be consulted on this in the near future. It was also clear from the meeting of fixed term contract staff that implementation of the Concordat for research staff was patchy with some evidence of good practice but also evidence of failure in this respect, especially as regards career development.

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Statutes are Important

In the last Newsletter I spent a page explaining why people should take an interest in the changes to Statutes. So persuasive was I that only 33 members turned up to a barely quorate special meeting of Academic Council to consider the changes. Since there was nothing about specific schools, the absence of many Heads of Schools is excusable, although those present contributed to a useful discussion on the roles of Deans and Heads of Schools. However, half of Academic Council are people elected to represent the views of the staff in their schools, and I cannot understand how they can do this if they fail to turn up.

The full Statute changes can now be seen at http:www.qub.ac.uk/qub_only/statutes.htm . All members of academic staff have an opportunity to express their views directly at the General Board of Studies. This ancient body nowadays discusses matters of general academic interest and could develop into an academic forum if enough people took an interest. Its meeting on Statutes is at 5.05 p.m. in room 206, Peter Froggatt Centre on Tuesday 20th February.

Paul Hudson

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Annual Subscription from Salary

Those of you who pay your subscription by annual deduction from salary should have had the deduction made in October, but for some reason this didn't happen. Once October had passed, we did not like to deduct the money too soon before or after Christmas, so the deduction will be from your February salary.

We would like e4ventually to have all our members pay by direct debit rather than deduction from salary. If you would like to change over please contact Patricia McKnight on 3090 or e-mail aut@qub.ac.uk .

Susan Harte

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Professorial Pay

The development of the new pay scheme for professors at Queen’s is proceeding apace, and Renee Prendergast and Paul Hudson reported progress to a well attended meeting of professors last week.

QUB are now proposing to have four salary ranges rather than five. The ranges are: £38K, £40K, £42K; £45K, £48K, £51K, £54K, £57K; £60K, £63K; and £66K upwards. The management state that reaching Range 2 should be the normal expectation of a professor. However, progress could be painfully slow, since they propose that movement between any salary points would require a promotion type application which could occur only at three year intervals. In a small number of cases there will be an additional payment to reflect market forces. The extent of this and the mechanism has yet to be decided, but it could be through sponsorship or outside earnings rather than a specific payment for subject X.

Detailed descriptions of the profile of achievement required for each range have been drawn up together with draft forms. The proposal is that, after comments from the Head of School and Dean, these will be used by an internal panel to assess each individual and place them on a salary point. This outcome will then be reviewed by an international panel of experts. The meeting had considerable reservations about these proposals; some doubted the fairness or knowledge of the Head of School and Dean, most thought that the international panel would be no safeguard unless it contained an expert in their own subject. We were instructed to seek full feed-back on applications and a proper appeal mechanism. Another criticism was that bigger salary advances could be achieved by ‘swanning around’ than by devoted work in Queen’s, and that this would deter applications for positions of responsibility such as Head of School.

Discussions are continuing.

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Reciprocal Membership Agreements

AUT has developed a number of Reciprocal Membership Agreements which provide trade-union services to members working temporarily in Higher Education institutions abroad. AUT has agreements with unions in Ireland, America, Canada, Germany, Australia and New Zealand and we are pursuing agreements with the Nordic countries. Details can be obtained from AUT HQ or from the website www.aut.org.uk . We have now established formal liaison meetings with our Irish counterparts, the Irish Federation of University Teachers.

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We Are Moving

The Belfast AUT office will soon be moving from Level 1 of the Admin Building to space formerly occupied by TEFL. Our new home is room 210, staircase R, Lanyon South. It’s best to phone to see if anyone is there before climbing all those stairs. Our secretarial assistant, Patricia McKnight, is there most mornings, but she has other duties. Our phone and e-mail will be unchanged — ext 3256 and aut@qub.ac.uk

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AUT Update

The February 2001 issue of this magazine is available on-line at aut.org.uk/pandp/update/update72.pdf A few printed copies are also available — just phone ex 3256. Those of you who have seen the January edition of Update will know that the front page picture was of the 5th December mass meeting at Queen’s.

 

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Meeting for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Members

1 p.m. on February 23rd 2001

in the

Senate Room

One purpose of the meeting is to discuss any problems specific to this group. The another purpose is to elect AUT members to attend the national AUT meeting of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered members on in London on Thursday 5th April, and to decide if we wish to send any motions to that meeting. A third purpose is to see if any member of this group wishes to be nominated for the national AUT Equal Opportunities Committee.

Paul Hudson

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Academic-Related Appraisal

Reports indicate that some, though not all, members of academic-related staff, have been asked to attend briefing meetings on new appraisal system. As a result, various concerns have been raised with the local officers of AUT. The main points of concern appear to be the timetabling of the first round ‘pilot phase’ of appraisal and the ‘overall performance assessment’ (i.e. awarding a single mark). The local officers of AUT had identified these issues as problems at an earlier stage in the consultations. In part, the description of the first phase as a ‘pilot’ seems to a recognition of the fact that the present timetable allows insufficient time for a reasonable assessment. With regard to the overall assessment of performance, we do not think that this adds any value to the appraisal process. In our view, it has the potential to act as an obstacle to open discussion and ‘to identification of areas where improvements and developments need to be achieved’.

We have requested a meeting with the University management at which we will raise these and other relevant points. We also expect that appraisal will be an important topic for discussion at the meetings of library staff, administrative staff and computer staff which have been scheduled during the next few weeks.

Renee Prendergast