Belfast AUT Newsletter Issue no. 9- August 2003
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That was my reaction to the employers final (and first) pay offer of 3.44% for August 2003 and 3% for August 2004. It does not address the widely recognised problems of academic pay. None of your Committee had a good word to say for it either. This two-year offer is tied to a complicated restructuring which involves individual job evaluation and then transfer to new grades on a 51 point pay spine. The employers claim that when this transfer takes place it will cost them 1.1% on average.

However, this transfer would take time, and staff could wait until 2006 for the money. Moreover, although some staff would gain a few £100 upon transfer, others could suffer a long-term pay cut. The structural changes are generally detrimental to academic and related staff and AUT National Executive have unanimously rejected the pay offer and the structural proposals.

We summarise the proposals below, but we recommend that you read the full 26 page document on the national website, . You will see that every proposal is qualified by obscurely worded conditions, that each institution is free to do it own thing, and that academic-related staff have disappeared from the employers’ thinking. HQ will be sending you other material on pay directly. AUT will reopen negotiations with the employers while making plans for political and industrial action. In the week of October 13 delegates will meet in a special AUT Council to debate the matters. If they believe that insufficient progress has been made they may authorise a ballot of members on industrial action in the autumn.

Identical proposals were made to all university staff covered by present national agreements, excluding clinical staff. UNISON (GB clerical staff and post-1992 administrators) and the manual unions are very likely to accept, and AMICUS (technicians) will probably do so. NATFHE (who organise some of the post-1992 academics) and EIS (Scottish post-1992 academics) are likely to side with AUT. The manual staff like it because some will get a shorter working week, while they will all retain their overtime and premium payments. (Sorry, there is no mention of overtime payments for the long hours worked by academic and related staff.) Clerical staff will welcome it because it breaks down the barrier between them and administrators. So is AUT’s rejection denying other staff the benefits they perceive? The answer is NO! There are two negotiating tables, one for academic and related staff and one for the rest. The employers have disguised this fact by making identical offers at both tables. There is nothing to prevent the employers reaching agreement with other staff while continuing negotiations with AUT for academic and related staff.

The Prime Minister has said: “ the status quo – the huge backlog of repairs to infrastructure and university lecturer’s pay increasing by only 5 percent in the past 20 years, when the figure for the rest of the economy is 45 per cent – is not an option ” That is why our pay claim was aimed to close this 40% gap against average non-manual earnings by 14% over a three year period. What the employers are offering is effectively the status quo maintenance of that gap. Some institutions clearly believe that the offer is inadequate. The Russell Group is formalising its structure and wants to break away from national pay negotiations in order to offer internationally competitive salaries to academics. This is based on the assumption that they will be free to charge up to £5,000 p.a. top-up fees. Those institutions where political constraints or market forces prevent this will clearly not be in the same pay league. So national pay negotiations may well break up.

But the employers’ proposals mean the end of national pay scales anyway. Overleaf you will see the proposed pay scales for academic and research staff. These are merely a commended pay structure, and institutions are free to negotiate alternatives. For all other types of staff (including academic-related) there are no suggestions for pay structure, and each institution could devise its own on the basis of job evaluation. And there is not even a nationally agreed system of job evaluation!
Consider two people in different institutions who do identical jobs for the same pay at present. Their jobs may be rated under different job evaluation schemes. Even if it is the same scheme there is no cross-checking between institutions to see if it is being applied in the same way. Even if they got the same score, their institutions could map this score onto different pay scales with different maxima. So there is no national comparability, and local pay conditions will dominate.

If someone’s current pay is within the main (non-discretionary) range of the pay scale corresponding to their job evaluation mark, they would move to a spine point equal or greater than their current pay. If their current pay is higher than the main range of their new pay scale, then either their current pay is protected for up to four years or their job must be expanded to justify the ‘higher’ pay. Nobody should assume that they will move horizontally or upwards in the diagram; Father Christmas is not carrying out the translation!

The pay spine has 3% steps in salary, so that it can take more steps to traverse the present salary ranges. Even if all the promotions went like clockwork, it could take an extra three years to reach the top of the old lecturer scale. For someone following a research and academic career there would be a rough match between spine point number and age. QUB professors are virtually untouched since only the professorial minimum is set nationally. Note that even for academic and research staff there would be significant differences from the present scales, and the new scales for academic-related staff are completely unknown. There are discretionary points (the dotted extension) on every scale which start at the bottom of the next scale, and accelerated increments can still be paid. Ordinary annual incremental progression would be qualified by being “subject exceptionally to existing procedures for dealing with performance problems.”

Over and above the pay scales determined by job evaluation, new and existing staff could be paid attraction and retention premia. These clearly identified sums could reflect market rates of pay for particular skills and would have to be revised (and possibly withdrawn) every two years. There is no indication how widespread these would be, or what are the practical ways of gathering the evidence on which they should be based. It is difficult to evaluate this proposal, but it is clearly an extension of patronage.

In rejecting the proposals AUT is not rejecting their proclaimed aim of improved Equal Opportunities. AUT has always championed Equal Opportunities; the employers proposals merely provide them with a defence against equal pay cases. Great managerial discretion and long pay scales are always associated with equal opportunity differences, yet these are the features enhanced in the employer’s proposals.

I hope that the above justifies to you the National Executive’s decision to seek improvements in the offer. By early October the outcome should be known and we will hold a General Meeting to hear your views. We may have to go to an industrial action ballot. Sometime in the autumn we may be asking you, the ordinary AUT member, “Are you serious?”

Paul Hudson

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I thanked outgoing members for their contributions and, in particular, Richard Jay for his work over the years. Susan Harte had stood down as Secretary due to pressure of work. Renee Prendergast was on sabbatical and, al

hough she was still involved in AUT, George Dunn and John Lynch were doing extra AUT work.
AUT has good working relations with personnel management, and there were now efficient meetings. The AUT has more than 15 ongoing negotiations, and a good redundancy pay agreement had been negotiated. However, it is regrettable that negotiations between trade unions collectively, and management were not working as effectively.

Relations with the Vice-Chancellor and senior management are much improved, mainly because of our campaign over research funding. Belfast AUT did considerable work with only limited funds: for most staff our Newsletter had been the only source of information the research-funding crisis.
National AUT has not yet grasped the importance of regional differences. There is no budget for Northern Ireland activities. The recent appointment of a deputy regional officer who was educated n Northern Ireland should improve the understanding of NI issues.

Personal cases occupied a great deal of the time of AUT officers and it is no longer possible to allocate two officers to each case. Apart from problems dealt with in a couple of phone calls, I have currently active three group cases and over 50 personal cases. These involve meetings with the member and accompanying them to meetings. Increasingly members want legal advice and I have visited the solicitors with members about half a dozen times. None of these resulted in legal action and the cases were passed back to me to handle. Most cases fall into more than one category but a rough breakdown of my current cases is: Potential discipline 5; Bullying or harassment 4; Grievance 6; Equal opportunity cases 6; Promotion/pay 8; Other types of unfair treatment 8; Early retirement/severance 8; Redeployment 9; Ending of fixed-term contract 3; Casual employment 4; Accompanying members where there is a breakdown of relations with management 3.

Some groups are on bad terms with management and want an AUT presence at meetings. On the other hand we also helped AUT members involved in disputes in their managerial capacity.
The rule say that a President normally serves for only two years. I have just been elected for a third consecutive year, and I have serve for four years in the past. I retire from the University in three year’s time; we must now develop people to replace me.

Paul Hudson

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The Next V-C. Several people have told me horror stories of who is on the shortlist to become the next Vice-Chancellor. There is no basis to these. The closing date for applications is in October and shortlisting will take place in November, so any “shortlist” now is the product of a fertile imagination. The Association of Commonwealth Universities Conference is being held in Queen’s at the start of September and this will attract about 300 Vice-Chancellors and their deputies. Perhaps some of them will take a fancy to the place.

Professorial Pay. I have been approached by several professors dissatisfied with the recent professorial pay review and I would welcome the views of other professors. The problem appears to be that, while there are criteria for moving up a band, there are no criteria for gaining a increment within a band. We will raise this with senior management when we next meet them.

Direct Debits. The new subscription rates detailed in the July Newsletter were the notice to those who pay by Direct Debit of the increased deductions starting in September. In Belfast we will always try to give you a couple of months notice. However, HQ have asked us to pass on this formal notice: “Important Note: we are streamlining our procedures and we will endeavour to advise you of any changes in contributions in good time. This will be no later than ten working days in advance of your account being debited.”

Housekeeping. At this time of year many members are leaving Queen’s, retiring, or going off on sabbatical. If you are, please notify us so that we can make the appropriate changes to your membership details and subscription. Even if you are not, please look at the address label and tell us if it needs to be updated.

Picture Gallery. The painting of the portrait of Mary McAleese spurred QUB to commission a photographer to take individual portraits of all the senior officers of the University. These black and white photographs together with his group picture of QUB Senate are now on display in the Canada Room. I will not describe it as a rogue’s gallery, but, by the grim expression worn by most individuals, you would think that they had been sentenced to a lifetime of penal servitude.

Paul Hudson

© 2003 Belfast Association of University Teachers
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