Belfast AUT Newsletter Issue no. 8- July 2002
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The employers have made a "full and final offer" of a 3.2% pay increase for all academic and related staff for 1 August 2002. Some individuals will also gain sums of the order of £100 due to the move to an interim pay spine (see Newsletter 4, May 2002). For this reason the employers describe it as an 3.5% offer. School teachers have been awarded increases of at least 3.5%, and the pay review bodies for nurses, doctors and dentists have recommended slightly more. Sally Hunt, AUT general secretary, commented: "We are deeply disappointed with this offer. It does not meet our members' legitimate aspirations in any way. It means that our members' pay will continue to fall behind comparable professions." AUT Executive could not recommend acceptance of the offer to members, but believe that it is all that can be achieved by negotiation. The offer is being referred to a consultative ballot of members. You will be told that if you reject the offer you must be prepared to take industrial action.

The employers also propose to remove a point at the bottom of the Lecturer A scale, so that it would now start at £22,191 p.a. This ameliorates a glaringly uncompetitive starting salary, but does nothing for those appointed recently, as they do not automatically benefit from this. The Lecturer A scale would now be very short, but progression to Lecturer B is the normal expectation. However, if the University does not adjust the criteria for that progression, many young lecturers will have insufficient time to meet the criteria and could be held at the top of Lecturer A. The removal of the point does not apply to academic-related scales, which would then start four points below the Lecturer minimum. This compares with a gap of one point only a few years ago. It is a further sign that the employers are trying to separate academic-related staff from academic.

There are two attachments to this offer. First is a get out clause, not agreed by the unions, in which the employers claim "flexibility" in applying this offer in institutions in financial difficulty. The second is an acknowledgement by the employers as well as the unions that the current offer does not address the pay problems identified by the Bett report and which have become more acute since. It also commits the employers to joint lobbying with the trade unions to secure the necessary funding to address those problems. I have heard such a commitment more times than I can remember. While acknowledging that academic and related staff have seriously fallen behind comparable professions, the employers have never put their money where their mouth is. Across the UK the proportion of university expenditure on salaries has declined, and in recent years the employers have made the same percentage pay offer to all types of staff, irrespective of the pay gap with comparable jobs.

Ballot papers will be sent out at the end of July, with a return date of 26th September. Full details of the offer showing the transfer to the interim spine will be included. If members reject the pay offer, then AUT will have to bring forward definite proposals in a proper industrial action ballot in the autumn. The earliest that action could start is November. It is unlikely that a one day stoppage would be sufficient. It is possible that we could mount joint action with our academic colleges in NATFHE and the Educational Institute of Scotland, but the last time we tried joint action with NATFHE they did not deliver. A similar pay offer is being recommended by negotiators to members of Unison, Amicus and TGWU, so there is no prospect of across campus action.

Paul Hudson, based on HQ circulars

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There was nearly full attendance at the special meeting of Academic Council on 21 June and the excitement was heightened by Maureen Alden distributing a leaflet on Classics at the door. The V-C announced that the proposals had been amended after pressure from science-based Heads of School so that Research Officers would now be offered Early Retirement/Severance only if it were in the managerial interest. Apart from the V-C's introduction and Paul Hudson's speech, speakers restricted themselves to a single topic in the report.

Maureen Alden oppose the proposal to discontinue teaching in Greek, Latin, Classics and Classical studies. She disputed the student numbers quoted in the Strategy and explained how hard work had built up interest in Classics in the province. The student numbers in the level one courses which studied the classics in translation had shot up this year and, if some of this carried over to other levels, the School would reach its target student-staff ratio. The School had won grants and a Fellowship not mentioned in the Strategy. A string of speakers then told Council how Classics was an essential element in a respectable university and how it illuminated their own subject. In reply it was said that some of the Russell group (including Imperial and LSE) did not teach Classics and the Dean, Bernard Cullen, quoted figures on student load which, after the meeting, he admitted were erroneous.

The debate in the reform of the Institute of Irish Studies was evenly split. There were those who thought that the existing staff were being callously treated and that the high reputation of the Institute could be lost. On the other hand some speakers thought that a wider Institute could invigorate it.

Despite the amendment, the proposals on Research Officers were criticised by several science-based speakers. It was seen as a run-down in the support of scientific research; why should they be counted in the target student-staff ratio when other types of support staff were not?
The Framework for Management of Schools/Institutes was criticised on grounds of practicality. As many of the other appendices were indicative and would be considered in detail in the next cycle of business, this too was held over.

After more than two hours of debate the Strategy was approved overwhelmingly by Academic Council with eight abstentions and seven against.
Senate (the governing body) considered the Strategy at a special meeting on 25 June. In the meantime there had been considerable media coverage especially about Classics and the Institute of Irish Studies, and some of the lay Senators were well briefed. The V-C denied talk of a financial crisis and said that the Strategy was not financially driven. Again only the V-C and Paul Hudson addressed the Strategy as a whole. The debates on Classics and Irish Studies followed the same lines as in Academic Council with lay Senators speaking favourably of their experiences of the Institute. However, some lay Senators said that the majority at Academic Council should be heeded.

Debate on any other aspects was lost when the Chair tried to bring the meeting to a conclusion. She ruled that she would not allow an amendment to save Classics. The V-C said that integrity of the Strategy would be threatened if Classics were saved as nobody had said where the corresponding financial savings should be made. Many members of Senate were incensed as in the corresponding debate on the 1998 Academic Plan an amendment to save Geology had been voted on. Despite this precedent no amendment was allowed and Senate voted 14 for and two against with three abstentions.

go to topcontents go to previous sectionprevious go to next sectionnext Advice on early retirement or severance

Academics who were not returned in RAE 2001 and not designated as strategic omissions and staff in Classical Languages have now been formally invited to consider Premature Retirement Compensation or Lump Sum Severance. The position for Research Officers is more confused because of the V-C's late amendment that they would be made this offer only if it was in the managerial interest (see above). Heads of Schools are to decide which Research Officers receive the offer. The usual cock-ups have occurred with both of the lists of academics and Research Officers. If anyone thinks that they have been wrongly include or excluded they should contact an AUT Officer. Since selection by senior management was based on the RAE and nothing else, Heads of School are often pleading with people not to take the offer.
Those with an invitation should respond to Ken Brown by the end of September and finalise arrangements by the end of March. The offer applies only to dates of leaving between 30 September 2002 and 30 September 2003. As a incentive to leave early, academics who take early retirement on 30 September 2002 will be re-engaged in a part-time capacity for one year on 1/3 of full-time salary and will also get a cash sum of 1/6 final salary. Together with the pension this would amount to roughly a full salary for the next academic year. If you are not tempted by this offer, our advice is to delay making a commitment to as late as possible.

If you decline the offer, could the University turn nasty? Queen's has never made a permanent member of academic and related staff compulsorily redundant, but it would be unwise to extrapolate that to a regime under a new Vice-Chancellor. Ever since the Government rewrote University statutes there has been a means of redundant anyone who appointed or promoted on or after 20 November 1987. The appendix to the academic strategy merely adds some flesh to the bones of the existing statutes and regulations. We are still in negotiation with the management on the detail and on the level of payment that would be made. It is unlikely to be as high as the current offer. Your best defence is the support of your Head of School and immediate colleagues. If they believe that you are making a worthwhile contribution to the team, it is hard to argue that you should be dispensed with. The same applies to any action under "Management of Performance". Again this adds some flesh to the bones of the existing statutes and regulations on discipline and we are still in negotiation. We have the assurance of the V-C that it should be used only in extreme cases.

We have updated the leaflets on Early Retirement and on Lump Sum Severance which we produced on the last occasion, and they are available to members from the AUT Office (ext 3256). They also describe the state benefits which would be available if you took this path and summarise the various considerations that people have found useful in making their decision. Fourteen Research Officers attended their meeting and about two dozen members went to Max Goldstrom's seminar on pensions, but we will now be concentrating on individual advice. If you want advice on pension matters and information on what deals are actually being made you should book a meeting with Max Goldstrom by phoning Ext 3256. If you want someone to read the runes about how the University and your future might develop, talk to Paul Hudson or Renee Prendergast.

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Subscription rates 2002-2003

The table below sets out subscription rates for the coming year. The number of subscription levels for Full Members has been increased from three to four. To encourage the recruitment of part-time staff, there is now a especially low rate for members who are paid less than one quarter of the Lecturer Minimum (£5,116 or less).

There are two parts to your subscription: a national subscription which accounts for about 90% of the total, and a local subscription. The national subscription is determined by AUT Council and funds the national organisation. There is a small increase on last year's rates to take account of inflation The local subscription, funds the activities of the local association. Yet again, it remains unchanged. For those entitled to the new low rate of subscription the local subscription will be £0.16 per month. The accounts for 2001-02 will be presented to a General Meeting in November and will show how your money is used. We expect to have a small surplus. In addition we have over £30K reserves.

Some members also choose to make a contribution to the AUT's political fund. The amounts involved are very small - just £0.10 per month at the highest subscription rate. The political fund contribution is part of the national subscription in GB where members are included automatically and have to opt out if they object to making the contribution. In Northern Ireland, members have to opt into the political fund contribution and you can do so by asking Belfast AUT office (ext 3256) for a form. There has been much in the press recently about unions withdrawing their contributions to the Labour Party. AUT's Political Fund cannot be used to support any political party. It is used to pay for our Parliamentary Officer who maintains close links with all MPs. It is also used fund our lobbying and campaigning on Higher Education issues where it might be legally construed as political campaigning. For this reason our hands could be tied if we did not have a healthy Political Fund.

University income band
(Limits are adjusted when we have a pay rise)
Total subscription
excluding Political Fund
Total subscription
including Political Fund
Not less than the Lecturer Minimum
(£20,470 from 1 March 2002)
£9.68 + £1.27 local
total £10.95 per month
(£131.40 per annum)
£9.78 + £1.27 localtotal £11.05 per month(£132.60 per annum)
Not less than half but less than the whole of the Lecturer Minimum
(£10,234 - £20,469 from 1 March 2002)
£5.88 + £0.76 localtotal £6.64 per month(£79.68 per annum) £5.94 + £0.76 localtotal £6.70 per month(£80.40 per annum)
Less than half of the Lecturer Minimum but more than a quarter of the Lecturer Minimum
(£5,117 - £10,233 from 1 March 2002)
£2.62 + £0.33 localtotal £2.95 per month(£35.40 per annum) £2.65 + £0.33 localtotal £2.98 per month(£35.76 per annum)
Less than one quarter ofthe Lecturer Minimum
(£5,116 or less from 1 March 2002)
£1.23 + £0.16 localtotal £1.39 per month(£16.68 per annum) £1.24 + £0.16 localtotal £1.40 per month(£16.80 per annum)

Total subscriptionexcluding Political Fund Total subscriptionincluding Political Fund

The reduced rates are often appropriate for those who retire. but have part-time employment in the University for which they require cover.
Attached Members pay £2.95 per month (plus £0.03 if paying the Political Fund). Attached Members registered as unemployed and Attached Members who are members of the NI Assembly pay no subscription, as do Full Members on unpaid parental or family responsibility leave.

For members who pay monthly, the new rates will come into effect in September. For members who pay annually, the annual deduction at the new rate will be made in October.

If you have joint AUT membership with RCN, RCM, MSF or some other trade-union, the AUT component of the subscription will change along the lines above at the appropriate date. If you want to know the exact amount please contact AUT HQ.

Last year AUT introduced an annual subscription of £27 (including the Political Fund) or £26.76 (excluding the Political Fund) for member who retired on or after 1 September 2001. Now anybody retiring can pay the lowest reduced rate - £16.80 (including the Political Fund) or £16.68 (excluding the Political Fund).

Max Goldstrom, Honorary Treasurer

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The Northern Ireland Executive have announced an extra £25M over a five year period. When matched by funds from a private benefactor this will amount to a £50M Spur2 fund to boost research in the province. Project proposals should demonstrate capability of achieving Grade 5 or 5* in the 2006 RAE. Projects may involve subject area graded 4, but must have higher rated areas associated with the proposal. QUB is busy drawing up proposals in the expectation that we will benefit to the extent of at least £30M.

All the other funding announcements are vague as to what is going into Higher Education, yet alone what is coming to Northern Ireland under the Barnett formula and, via the Assembly, to the two universities. It is said that from 2003 the Higher Education Funding Council for England will be able to fully fund the RAE in England. If that does happen and is fully reflected in Northern Ireland, then QUB should benefit by more than the extra £2.5M assume in the new Academic Strategy.

The Government also said that it is going to fund the recommendations of the Roberts Review on the difficulty in attracting people to Science and Engineering (see Newsletter 4, April 2002). Amongst his many recommendations are: better funding of university teaching of science and engineering, upgrading of teaching laboratories, higher starting salaries for secondary and university teachers of science and engineering and higher pay for research students and post-docs. The only firm commitment so far announced is to increase PhD bursaries to £12K p.a., but presumably this will eventually have some knock-on effect on research and academic salaries in science and engineering.

Paul Hudson

© 2002 Belfast Association of University Teachers
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