Belfast AUT Newsletter Issue no. 1- January 2004
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go to previous sectionprevious go to next sectionnext Support the Action — You Cannot Afford to Accept UCEA’s Proposals

The ballot paper that you will receive soon asks whether you are prepared to take action short of a strike and whether you are prepared to take strike action. The National Executive and your local Committee urge you to vote yes to both. All politicians are agreed the UK needs universities that can compete internationally, and they are just arguing about how the extra funding can be found. The international standing of a university is completely determined by the efforts of its academic and related staff. Yet we are being offered a step backwards to the pay and conditions of the old polytechnics. The decline in academic and related pay relative to that in other countries and compared to similar professions has been simply ignored. Until that is addressed UK universities cannot be internationally competitive. Remember from the last Newsletter how the earnings of young researchers would be so adversely affected — will we be able to recruit the best minds?

Most staff would lose heavily in terms of career earnings, especially academic related staff. But not everybody loses out if they move to the new structure, and professorial pay is unaffected. As you can see below UCEA is trying to drive a wedge between various groups of AUT members. Everyone should consider the implications of the attitude displayed by the employers. They ignored international comparisons. They ignored all the representations that AUT made on your behalf and threw us out of the negotiations. Can you afford to let them behave like that?

The one day strikes generate that essential publicity and a sense of common cause amongst the members, since everyone can participate. This feeling of solidarity will be needed to sustain the action short of a strike, which could go on for weeks. The boycott of appraisal is always popular and involves virtually everybody, as does a boycott of all job evaluation exercises. But other actions such as a boycott of call-out cover and a refusal to provide cover for absent colleagues will involve only a minority of members. For most of our academic members the not setting or marking of examinations or continuous assessment will be our major action. It will also be the crunch action in terms of impact on the employers. It requires the determined resistance of individual members, and you should give support to any members who you feel are under pressure. Remember that solidarity is essential if we are to see off this threat to our conditions and career earnings.

go to topcontents go to previous sectionprevious go to next sectionnext General Meeting

General Meeting on Pay and Action
at 1 p.m. Wednesday

21 January 2004

Lecture Theatre 121 Lanyon South


go to topcontents go to previous sectionprevious AUT – UCEA Arguments

The employers have distributed propaganda about their proposals accompanied by a table of pay increases which is full of mistakes. Always check any “facts” with an AUT officer or the AUT website. Numbered paragraphs are points made by UCEA, paragraphs in bold are AUT responses.

1. The Framework Agreement is the result of 2 years of national negotiations involving representatives of all HE trades unions, including the AUT president and officers – it did not appear overnight.

AUT has engaged fully with the employers in the negotiations over the past 2 years. However, the most contentious of their proposals, the commended grading structure, was only tabled in July. Between July and December we sought every opportunity to negotiate – all suggested improvements were rejected.

2. The 2 year pay offer from August 2003 provides an average 7.7% uplift, and potentially more for many AUT members.

The offer guarantees increases of 3.44% in 2003 and 3% in 2004. The further 1.2% average increase available depends on your place on the pay spine and the outcome of local job evaluation exercises. The employers figures only relate to initial transfer to the pay spine and do not take account of significant career earnings losses for many staff.

3. The AUT position is at odds with that of other HE trades unions. Over 50% of HE staff have already fully accepted the Framework and want to work in partnership to achieve positive change. Additionally, NATFHE members voted overwhelmingly for conditional acceptance of the Framework.

Both the other academic unions – NATFHE and EIS – have real concerns about the proposals. NATFHE have said that if their concerns are not met, a ballot for industrial action will follow. It is this course of action that was supported in the NATFHE ballot.

4. The Framework aims to unify pay arrangements across the sector and address equal pay concerns. It specifies a single national pay spine for all staff and requires common grading across staff groups.

AUT supports the principle of harmonisation of grading and we want to see equal pay concerns addressed urgently. But we will not agree to a national pay spine that lengthens grades and reduces career earnings for our members.

5. The AUT appears to be balloting all members (except heads of institutions and clinical academic staff) on industrial action. Some, such as professors, will be largely unaffected by the Framework Agreement. Others, such as those in post-92 HEIs will be untouched by the concerns AUT has raised (which are not shared by NATFHE as regards its members).

Of course professors will be affected by these proposals. Although the Bett Report recommended that the minimum salary for professors should have been £46,500 by 2002, the new spine has a commended professorial minimum of £44,947 with effect from 1 August 2004. Professorial salaries, as with all other academic staff, still fall way behind comparators.
Staff in post 1992 universities will of course be affected by the concerns we have raised regarding the ability of employers to implement local grading structures based on local job evaluation schemes. NATFHE has raised many difficulties with the proposals including the application of contribution pay and market supplements. Without agreement on these our sister union will also ballot members for industrial action.

6. New pay structures will be underpinned by job evaluation – which all modern employers and trades unions believe is the best means of securing equal pay for work of equal value.

AUT has done a great deal of work to show how nationally agreed grading structures can be used alongside local job evaluation schemes in order to secure equal pay for work of equal value. What the employers propose though is for different institutions to introduce entirely different grading structures.

7. The Framework Agreement includes an illustrative ‘model’ pay structure, but makes clear that variants and alternatives can be negotiated in partnership locally to meet the varying needs and circumstances of different universities and colleges.

This is exactly the point we make above, and one of our principal objections to the Framework Agreement. What is the point of negotiating a national model which can be changed completely at local level? AUT members are recruited from national labour markets. They should have their pay structures negotiated and agreed nationally and be secure that these pay structures will remain as negotiated.

8. The Framework sets out important national parameters, but it is in the detailed application at institution level that AUT concerns about particular aspects of the ‘model’ can be addressed. A number of universities have offered to work with the AUT to prove that it’s fears are unfounded.

We are happy to work with the employers through the UCEA to address the very serious concerns we have raised. This needs to be done at national level, as with the project to produce academic profiles, not through a number of local projects that would result in a number of variants to the model.

9. The Technical Group set up to develop a library of academic role profiles has the capacity to recommend changes to the ‘model’ if there is evidence suggesting the need for this. By declaring a dispute and ruling themselves out of the Technical Group, AUT is missing the opportunity to influence further change.

AUT contributed substantially to the work of the Technical Group. By asking AUT to leave negotiations in December, it is the employers that have prevented this work from continuing.

10. The ‘model’ in the Agreement is just that, it is not the only way forward and the AUT has every right to pursue a variant with individual HEIs if it judges that would be preferable for its members.

How many times do we have to say this? We are seeking improvements to the national commended grading structure, and agreement that it is this grading structure that will be used for academic and related staff. Why is the UCEA defending their commended structure when they are predicting, indeed encouraging, so many variants to it?


© 2004 Belfast Association of University Teachers
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