Belfast AUT Newsletter Issue no. 4- May 2002
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The annual round of pay negotiations is nearly upon us. By campaigning together we can create the environment that will allow AUT and fellow union negotiators to get the pay rise that all AUT members need and deserve. The public mood has changed to recognising that public sector staff deserve a fair deal, and our task is to build on that.

This year we are starting the campaign early. We want all AUT members to play a role in delivering our objectives. This year our objectives are four fold:

1. Deliver a substantially improved pay deal for academics and academic related staff.

2. Ensuring the future of fair national grading scales for all.

3. Bring an end to Casualisation in higher education.

4. Maintaining one national voice for pay negotiations.


Why are these things important this year? We all know that academic pay has failed to maintain any sort of equilibrium with pay rises outside of academia. Whilst the last 20 years has seen average pay outside our Universities rise by 44% in real terms, we have seen our pay rise by only 5%. Over 50% of academic staff live with the uncertainty of fixed term contracts. We have delivered, and continue to deliver world class research, teaching ever increasing student numbers, producing graduates for the UK economy and maintaining British Universities at the forefront of world-class excellence. Yet successive governments have not played fair with us and delivered their side of the bargain. We have delivered, we have reformed, we have worked hard on their priorities and now the time has come for them to play fair and pay fair.

Some Universities want to introduce local pay bargaining. If they succeed, it will only make it easier to use the arguments of competition between institutions to offer academics and academic related staff ever worsening pay and conditions. We know they are making a push on these issues this year and we must fight to preserve national pay bargaining. The basis of trade unionism is that we are stronger together than divided. On the issue of pay, above all others, we must remember this.

A fair pay deal, national pay bargaining, job security and national grading structures - these are our objectives and we aim to winů.together.
AUT National Council in May will be debating further national action on pay, but we must start to create the climate of opinion now to make it impossible for the Government and Vice-Chancellors to think they can get away with treating us like the cinderella public service again.

You can join the campaign now by logging on to www.aut.org.uk/campaigns/. This is a new electronic campaigning tool for the AUT and we are the first union in the country to use it. It will take you just five minutes to find and use resources for letters to the local media, facts and figures for arguing your case, information and draft letters for lobbying MPs. National action delivered locally and early. So that when I, as General Secretary of the AUT, sit down with University management and my fellow trade unionists the message is clear. This year we want results.

Sally Hunt, General Secretary

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We are asking members to lobby four different groups of decision-makers:

All of this can be done by ordinary members using our new electronic campaign tool. It will take you just five or ten minutes. The basic text is provided on the national AUT website at http://www.aut.org.uk/campaigns/. You should amend it to give local information. The software will automatically link you to the appropriate person.

go to topcontents go to previous sectionprevious go to next sectionnext Has Anyone Consulted You?

The new QUB Strategic Plan appears to be a completely top down exercise with even Deans having little input. In fact, I cannot find anyone who claims to have been consulted about it. Has your School/unit discussed its future post-RAE in light of the declared financial cuts? Has anyone discussed the changing pattern of student preferences or other external forces?

'War is too important to be left to the generals' but it appears that your knowledge and wisdom will go unheeded. The past Academic Plan has been mainly successful (though not financially) but at an unnecessarily high human price, and it also contained definite errors which could have been avoided by input from knowledgeable people. The new draft plan will emerge in mid May, but there are neither the structures or the time for most people to have any meaningful input before it reaches Academic Council on 12th June.

Maybe you can call a School meeting to discuss the plan, but you certainly should transmit your views to your Head of School and your elected representatives on Academic Council. Whether the debate there will be fruitful remains to be seen; on the last occasion the V-C would allow no amendment.

Given the financial circumstances, it is likely that the Strategic Plan will contain drastic and unpleasant proposals for some areas of the University. Belfast AUT will defend the interests of all its members, but obviously we could be rushed off our feet. 'Forewarned is forearmed' and so we would welcome any rumours about the Strategic Plan. We particularly would like to hear from any area of the University which feels vulnerable so that we are adequately briefed to challenge any ill thought out proposals.

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More on Pay

The interim 92-point common pay spine to be used from 1 August 2002 has been published. Most pay points for academic and related staff are on the pay spine, and so only a few members will benefit from being assimilated to a spine point above their current pay point. Any gains are of the order of £100 p.a. There are usually one or two spine points between our current pay points, but my understanding is that academic and related staff with increments will jump over these. The present pay structure will remain for at least a year. We are negotiating a pay rise from 1 August (see www.aut.org.uk/campaigns/pandt-main.html for details of the claim), but in March 2002 values the relevant part of the new pay spine is:

Present
Point
Present
Salary (£)
New
Spine (£)
Present
Point
Present
Salary (£)
New
Spine (£)
Present
Point
Present
Salary (£)
New
Spine (£)
4
17,626
17,699
12
25,455
25,455
20
34,158
34,158
5
18,655
18,681
13
26,491
26,491
21
35,529
35,574
6
19,681
19,681
14
27,545
27,614
22
36,355
36,462
7
20,470
20,470
15
28,602
28,703
23
37,482
37,482
8
21,503
21,503
16
29,709
29,709
24
38,603
38,603
9
22,522
22,574
17
30,819
31,129
25
39,575
39,575
10
23,373
23,373
18
32,537
32,537
26
40,578
40,578
11
24,435
24,662
19
27
41,732
41,732

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18th April Meeting with Carmel Hanna, Minister for Employment and Learning

Present: Carmel Hanna (Minister), Dave MacAuly (Director of HE, DEL), Brian Everett (Assistant General Secretary, AUT), Alex Nunn (Research Officer, AUT), Paul Hudson (QUB AUT and NIAC Chair), Renee Prendergast (QUB AUT), Terry McKnight (UU AUT, and Vice President AUT), Jane Mckee (UU AUT).


Research Funding
The meeting was organised to discuss the issue of research funding, against the background of the recent RAE (in which members at both QUB and UU contributed to improved scores) not being fully funded. As yet we are unaware of the full implications of this but QUB are considering a total expenditure cut of 3.6%. We therefore have sent the Minister briefing papers laying out AUT's position on research funding and argued at the meeting that publicly funded research in NI's universities is vitally important to the health of the region's economy and society.

The Minister was very receptive to these arguments and commented that they were well understood in the Assembly and Executive. She confirmed that DEL were hopeful that the outcome of the spending review in the summer will be that there will be more funds for research and that she would be making research funding a priority in her strategic plan for HE.

The Director of HE also commented that there was a sense that the allocation of research funding may be achieved through a different technical funding mechanism and that the discussions in HEFCE on this issue were being monitored. He also commented that considerations in NI would bear in mind regional differences such as the relatively small research base and the vulnerability of the sector to changes because of this. He also told us that NI DevR research funding was no longer being applied and that spending rules did not allow under-spends in other areas to be reallocated at the end of the financial year or transferred between years as is now the case in England.

NIHEC
The Director of HE informed us that the suggested board of NIHEC would be put in front of the Minister in the next few days and would be made public shortly. He said that there had been some difficulty in appointing business and industry representatives to the board. As far as we are aware there is to be no trade union representative. He confirmed that the powers of the reconstituted NIHEC would not be vastly dissimilar to the previous situation.

Casualisation
The Minister was made aware of the link between unstable research funding and casualisation as well as the problems associated with casualisation in the sector. The minister said that she was well aware of these and indicated a willingness to tackle the issue. She was made briefly aware of the AUT's concerns about the forthcoming Fixed Term Workers Regulations in the Employment Bill and it was agreed that we would write to the minister with regard to this.

Alex Nunn, Regional Research Officer

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The National Meeting of Administrative Staff

A number of members from Queen's attended the annual joint national meetings of administrative, library and computer staff representatives in London on 8 March 2002. With an election campaign for general secretary under way, candidates took the opportunity to present their platforms - two in person, and one in a written submission because his vice-chancellor had called a sudden meeting to discuss the recently publicised funding allocations for English universities.

The plenary session looked at a number of issues of concern to all Local Associations. Assistant General Secretary Sally Hunt gave a "state of the nation" summary which placed the year's activity in a national and strategic context. Liz Hall, President of the Sheffield Association, and Sylvia Laverty of the Open University AUT outlined steps that Local Associations could take to ensure that their organisations were efficient and welcoming organisations - the surest way to avoid recruitment problems. Terry McKnight from UU, Chair of the Employment Committee, updated the meeting on the sensitive issue of job grading.

After lunch, the groups split into their separate meetings. The administrative staff meeting, chaired by AUT President Natalie Fenton, returned to the issue of job grading. A number of members voiced fears about attempts by employers to break the link between academic and academic-related pay scales. There were also concerns about the methodologies being used to evaluate jobs and a warning that the grading of a post should not be confused with performance-related pay, which implies different rates for people doing the same job, according to how their manager judges them to have performed.

Robert Baxter

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  Snippets

Work-related Journeys.
When we raised the problem of insurance for such car journeys, James O'Kane said that the reimbursement rate for travel had been calculated to take account of insurance costs, and staff, therefore, should ensure appropriate insurance cover. Whilst he believed most insurance policies would cover occasional business use, he said staff should check the terms of their cover with their own insurance company. We are sceptical that the problem can be solved so simply and cheaply, and would like to hear from anyone encountering difficulties.


Academic Promotions.
The procedure has now reached the stage when those not recommended to the Central Promotions Review Committee are being notified of that fact. We are being contacted by members who are angered and puzzled by the explanations given to them. Our advice is to seek further clarification, but also to consider applying to the Data Protection Officer, Barry Kelly, to obtain the documentation used. If anyone has evidence of criteria (or even a veto) being used which are not part of the published scheme, we will take up their case.

Discretionary Pay.
This is supposed to be awarded through a process running parallel to the promotions procedure, but we are still hearing of whole sections of the University being left out. We have raised this with the University Officers but our simple suggestions for centrally organised publicity were rejected because discretionary pay is 'management led'. This management discretion is being very jealously guarded. The knowledge of a head of unit about his/her staff is necessarily dated and patchy (especially concerning community service) so, unless staff have been invited to up-date their details, the selection by the manager cannot be fair. European law requires pay to be determined by an open and transparent process (i.e. that an independent observer could understand why each payment is being made). We do not believe that the discretionary pay process, as presently run, satisfies that criterion. Anybody who feels that they have been unfairly treated is invited to contact Belfast AUT to see if they have grounds for a Grievance or a Tribunal case.


Academic Freedom.
The House of Lords recently rejected a move to tighten powers over academic research as part of the Export Control Bill. The AUT inspired amendment defending the right of academic freedom was carried by 150 to 108 votes. The amendment had cross party support and the Government now has to decide whether to overturn it when the Bill returns to the Commons.


The Roberts Review.
At last year's Budget the Chancellor commissioned a review of the supply of scientists and engineers as part of the Government's strategy for improving the UK's productivity and innovation performance. Sir Gareth Roberts has now produced a 221 page report. He examined the difficulties in attracting people to study these subjects and the shortages affecting the teaching of these subjects at secondary and at university level. He was constrained to considering engineering and the physical, biological and mathematical sciences (including Computer Science) and excluded Psychology, Medicine and Agriculture. However he often mentioned similar problems in other subjects such as Modern Languages and Economics. 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 whole report can be accessed via the AUT website: www.aut.org.uk/campaigns/index.html

Fixed Term Staff.
The European inspired legislation to improve conditions for fixed term staff is being finalised at Westminster and AUT is lobbying hard to close the loopholes which our employers wish to exploit. The legislation need not be copied exactly in Northern Ireland, and we have been lobbying Carmel Hanna locally, since she also has responsibility for Employment. We will feature the plight of fixed term staff in our next Newsletter.


Till Retirement.
We are glad to hear of someone employed on a fixed term contract having it extended to normal retirement age. Senate has extended the V-C's contract of employment until he retires on 31 July 2004.


© 2001 Belfast Association of University Teachers
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