Stop Treating University Staff As Second-Class Citizens

0
1420

AUT general secretary Sally Hunt is launching a manifesto for academic-related staff in Manchester on 12 May calling for more pay, reduced hours and extra staff.

The manifesto is being supported by poet Benjamin Zephaniah, who writes about the value of libraries and particularly the librarians who ‘protect us from ignorance and take personal care of our knowledge’.

Academic-related staff are higher education professionals with expertise and experience in specialised roles as learning facilitators, administrators, librarians, teachers, archivists, computing staff, web team managers, international officers, alumni officers, editors, brand managers, lab managers, safety officers, technical services managers, housing officers, faculty managers, transport managers, regional development managers, careers officers, student advisors, student union managers, and planning officers.

The launch event will be held at the Haworth Banqueting Suite at Manchester University on 12 May.

‘Our academic-related members are fed up with universities treating them like second-class citizens, especially on pay and staffing levels,’ AUT general secretary Sally Hunt said.

‘The union is very publicly launching its manifesto on Thursday and calls on every university to treat its academic-related members of the academic team with the dignity and respect they deserve.

‘We welcome the support of library users like Benjamin Zephaniah and the AUT pledges that it will do everything possible to support our academic-related members,’ Hunt added.

‘The physical space we call the library cannot be digitised, and the guardians of that precious space should not be undervalued,’ Zephaniah said.

The manifesto sets out the following key areas that the AUT wants higher education institutions to apply:

• that employers recognise our expertise and professionalism by maintaining the links between academic and academic-related staff in salaries, pensions, grading and career progression within the academic team

• that this contribution made to higher education is acknowledged by our employers through higher pay, better opportunities for personal and career development, improved working conditions, and an appropriate work-life balance

• that higher education institutions re-examine their governing bodies with the intention of providing a fair representation of academic-related staff amongst their governors

• that, in order to address our excessive workloads, our employers re-examine staffing levels with a view to increasing the employment of academic-related professionals in HE

• that our employers implement all internal policies equally across all staff categories to ensure fair and equitable treatment for each member of the academic team.

AUT academic-related staff committee chair Jim Guild (Sussex University) said that his members were underpaid, undervalued and over-worked.

‘We are professionals working alongside colleagues in the academic team, but are treated by some universities as a way of making savings when budgets are tight,’ Guild said.

‘Librarians at Bangor University were recently told that their unique contribution to the university could be delivered through students using the internet.

‘This cavalier attitude has to stop and we hope that the manifesto will help ensure our members are properly valued,’ he added.

• Meanwhile, higher education unions have warned employers of disruption over inadequate London weighting payments.

Unions at London’s universities and institutions of higher education are seething over employers’ plans to ditch ‘London Weighting’ cost of living allowances.’

The unions say if this happens, they will resume a joint campaign which will lead to disruption of higher education in the capital.

Despite over two years of detailed research highlighting the need to improve levels of London Weighting, employers’ organisation UCEA has yet to produce any proposals for improving the pay of London’s university staff.

Now unions have learned that UCEA has suggested that the existing allowance be phased out.

Higher education London Weighting is at the bottom of the public sector league table, at a time when there are acknowledged problems in recruiting and retaining university staff.

In 2003, a London Weighting dispute within London’s universities saw wide-scale disruption across all London institutions.
The dispute resulted in the establishment of the London Weighting Consortium.

The remit of the Consortium, established jointly by UCEA and the trade unions in March 2003, was to review the level and form of the existing London allowance and to develop proposals for the future.

Unions representing employees in London’s universities – AMICUS, AUT, GMB, NATFHE, T&G and UNISON – have issued the following statement:

‘At the moment, staff in the post-1992 London institutions have their allowance increased each year through collective bargaining.

‘In the future, if the employers refuse to negotiate, the allowance would be frozen as it has been in the pre-1992 institutions where the employers unilaterally ended collective bargaining 11 years ago.

‘This would leave London’s university staff as the only group of public sector employees not to have collective negotiating rights on London Weighting.

‘This would result in staff receiving absolutely no identifiable additional pay to compensate them for the high cost of living in London.

‘The higher education trade unions participated in the Consortium on the basis of commitments given by UCEA on the potential for improvements in London Weighting following the resolution of the damaging industrial dispute in 2003.

‘Unless concrete proposals to improve the pay of London’s University staff are produced by 1 August 2005 a resumption of the joint trade union campaign is inevitable.

‘The trade unions are seeking a London-wide common approach to London Weighting incorporating both pre- and post-1992 institutions which will deliver a London allowance equal to the best available in the public sector.

‘The 2003 dispute was settled on the promise of future improvements. Unless UCEA deliver on those promises London Universities will again face serious disruption.’