Issue No 3 March 2001
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Academic-Related Status

Negotiations are currently taking place on future national bargaining structures. The Bett Report recommended two bargaining tables — academic and "non-academic". AUT has always argued that academic-related staff are similar to academic staff in terms of being graduates, of being nationally recruited, and of doing work which is closely related to, or in support of, academic work, and we set out that case in ‘Building the Academic Team’. We argue that academic-related pay should be tied to the academic pay decided at the academic bargaining table, where AUT would be the leading union.

AUT is now conducting a lone fight against the proposal by the employer’s body (UCEA) that pay and conditions for academic-related staff be negotiated at the "non-academic" bargaining table. At this table would be negotiated the pay of all other university staff and it would be dominated by the needs of hourly paid and locally recruited staff. With such a diverse group it is likely that all that would emerge from national negotiations would be an across-the-board increase. The conditions of service needed to perform academic related work and the comparability with other professions would be neglected, and the status of academic-related staff would be undermined.

Over the years a wide variety of academic-related contracts and statements of terms and conditions have been issued. If you have one which refers to academic pay scales, or to the Universities Authorities Panel (or to the UCEA) as the relevant body for the annual review of salaries, then please send me a copy immediately. It will help AUT make your case.

Paul Hudson

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Academic-Related Staff — Appraisal, Discretionary Awards and Performance-related Pay

Hopes and concerns about appraisal, discretionary awards and performance-related pay have been voiced at recent meetings of administrative, library and computing staff.

Despite staff being told, when the previous appraisal scheme was introduced, that appraisal could not be both developmental and judgmental, the new appraisal scheme is attempting to be just that. On the judgmental side it will require managers to assign individual staff to one of five "boxes" ranging from "outstanding" to "not satisfactory". The individual’s objectives have to be set within the wider context of the unit’s and the University’s objectives. Five competencies are assessed: personal effectiveness; interpersonal effectiveness; financial awareness; I.T. effectiveness; leadership and management effectiveness. On the developmental side, no budgetary commitment has been made towards training needs.

Some of the concerns that have been expressed to AUT are:

But the scheme is not all bad. In particular, many staff will welcome a clarification of their unit’s objectives and will welcome seeing their own objectives set within the wider context. Where there is trust in management and real leadership (and yes, there are a few areas where this exists), the scheme has the potential to energise and focus staff.

Discretionary awards.

Staff thought the "discretion" related to a management decision about whether or not you qualified. They thought that it should not be discretion about whether or not they would be told there was a discretionary awards scheme in operation. Whatever the merits or otherwise of the scheme itself, open and transparent information disseminated consistently across the University would do much to allay suspicion.

Performance-related pay.

It will follow on from judgmental appraisal as sure as night follows day.

Gerry Cleary, Administrative Staff Representative
Gaynor Creighton, Library Staff Representative
George Dunn, Computing Staff and AUT Assistant Secretary
Susan Harte, Administrative Staff and AUT Honorary Treasurer
Drew Todd, Computing Staff Representative

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AUT — ATL "Marriage"

Members may have been surprised by the Guardian Higher Education supplement which carried a giant wedding photograph together with a short article on "the marriage of two teacher’s unions". This is overblown hype and a correct account is given on the AUT website www.aut.org.uk which describes it as a co-habitation. Both unions remain distinct and separate organisations. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has 150,000 members mainly in secondary schools, but also in nursery and primary schools and further education colleges. ATL is by a long way the largest teacher union in sixth forms and sixth form colleges. Our senior officials have long been friendly with them and brokered their admission to the TUC.

What has been signed is a partnership agreement. When an ATL member is seconded to a university teacher education department or college of education, we will look after their interests. And vice versa. The unions will pool resources where appropriate over research, the development and presentation of educational policy (especially teacher education), the provision of better discounts and services for members and possible savings on the running of the membership database and the collection of subscriptions.

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University Finances

The funding allocations to English higher education institutions were published on 2 March. Although the real term increase averaged 1.5%, six universities lost 2% in real terms mainly due in failing to fill their student places. Even Imperial, UCL, Oxford and UMIST lost some money in real terms. QUB does not expect to hear our allocation until near Easter, however NI has an 11% increase in HE spending for the next year, but much of that could go on student support and extra places. £80M of the money distributed was for rewarding, retaining and developing staff in higher education. The Higher Education Funding Council for England demanded that institutions had plans to satisfy six general criteria in order to qualify for this money. In Northern Ireland DHFETE has not yet decided what criteria to apply. Since some of the English criteria (e.g. equality monitoring) are already partially satisfied, DHFETE has consulted the university managements and meets with AUT later this month.

In QUB the financial forecasts for this year have been revised. Because of the implementation of the Academic Plan and our capital expenditure a deficit had been forecast, but over a few months this has been nearly halved. The forecast deficit has been cut by more than £1M to £1.348M. Of this saving £0.6M was in staff costs paid from general funds. This was remarkable when you would have expected academic staff numbers to have been built up in the run up to RAE headcount day. I was told that this drop was a random fluctuation and not the result of a policy decision. So the rumoured freeze in recruiting can not be true.

Paul Hudson

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Report of the Working Party on Academic Promotion and Discretionary Pay

The report of the working party on academic promotion and discretionary pay is currently being progressed through the University committee structure with a view to immediate implementation. The main recommendations are as follows:

Promotions

Discretionary Awards

On the whole the proposed new promotions scheme offers substantial improvements over the existing scheme in terms of fairness, effectiveness and transparency. The proposed scheme attempts to take into account the fact that the range and level of activity which might reasonably be expected from a newly appointed Lecturer is different from that which might be expected from a Senior Lecturer. It also attempts to address issues such as the objectivity of the assessment provided by the Head of School, the objectivity of the information provided by candidates, comparability between faculties and quality of feedback to unsuccessful candidates. There are some flaws as well. On the one hand, candidates for promotion are expected to match the appropriate profile in terms of teaching and research and either administration or service to the community but, elsewhere in the document, we are told that in order to qualify for consideration, staff will be expected to satisfy the research requirement. This appears to be irrespective of the funding for research. Balanced excellence indeed!

In order to qualify for discretionary pay, staff are expected to match the profile of the level above their current level in at least two of the four categories: teaching, research, administration and service to the community. This looks like an improvement on existing criteria, although it may prove restrictive. We also welcome the working party’s proposal that, in the interests of equality of opportunity, there should be self application for discretionary awards using the same paperwork as for promotion.

As noted above, the working party’s proposals are at this stage proposals and not policy. They are subject to amendment by various University committees and it would be foolish to assume that the process of amendment will necessarily be a process of improvement. We will keep you posted on developments.

Renee Prendergast

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Snippets

  1. In the past few weeks we have called meetings for various special groups in our membership: Fixed-term Contract staff, Black and Ethnic Minority staff, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered members, Women, Administrative staff, Computer staff and Library staff. If you wish to see any of the reports of national work in these areas, please contact Paul Hudson, ext 3157.
  2. The March edition of AUT Update is available at www.aut.org.uk/pandp/update/update73.html
  3. If your membership details have changed (e.g. your title, department, etc.) you can change it on http://www.aut.org.uk/members/index.html but please also inform Belfast AUT direct at aut@qub.ac.uk
  4. DHFETE have published student statistics for 1999/2000. Last year more than 14,000 Northern Ireland students gained qualifications at UK higher education institutions. The number of first degrees increased by 1% compared with 1997/8 and other undergraduate awards (including HND and Dip HE) increased by 8% while higher degrees decreased. 4510 NI domiciled students achieved first class or upper second class honours, an increase of 4%. Between 1997/8 and 1999/2000 there was a 3% increase in NI domiciled students gaining undergraduate qualifications at NI HE institutions. There was a similar increase of 3% for those attending GB HE institutions, so we have just maintained our market share.
  5. Anybody who wishes to join the AUT disability network should send an e-mail message to Majordomo@lists.lboro.ac.uk containing the single line
  6. subscribe aut-disability

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General Meeting

1.05 p.m. Wednesday 28 March in
G06 Peter Froggatt Centre

Agenda

  1. Approval of Business from the Previous General Meeting (which was inquorate).
  2. Developments on Salaries and National Negotiating Machinery.
  3. Business for AUT May Council, including Motions. A suggested motion would deplore the over regulation of university work.
  4. Notice of Change to Local Rules. We now need rules governing the specialist group meetings.
  5. Any Other Business.

Paul Hudson