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“A Source of Embarrassment” – Pay Inequality at Bath

In October, the University received national press attention during the week of our 50th Anniversary celebrations, but for all the wrong reasons, as half a dozen newspapers ran stories focused entirely on the pay and expenses of the Vice Chancellor.

Last week, the spotlight intensified, with national news outlets and television and radio programmes reporting that the Vice Chancellor has taken another large pay rise, of £45,000 – an 11% uplift, ten times the 1.1% pay offer imposed on other staff. Times Higher Education believe that this makes Professor Breakwell the highest paid Vice Chancellor in the country, with a salary and benefits in excess of £450,000 per year, not including her other “part-time” jobs, which bring in some £60,000 per year.

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, has branded the “fat cat” salary an “insult” to staff and said “I am sure the students at Bath, who are struggling with record levels of debt and increasing tuition fees, will want to know exactly what Mrs Breakwell is doing to justify being paid so much more than the Prime Minister.”

The patience of B&NES Council Members is wearing thin. Joe Rayment, Councillor for Twerton, has now written to the Vice Chancellor in an open letter published in the Bath Chronicle. He says that “continually using the University of Bath as a means by which to engorge your already considerable wealth…demeans the university and it embarrasses our city…you are bringing the University of Bath into disrepute and it is time for you to resign with whatever respect you still have among the academic and Bath communities.”

On campus, the students have now passed policy through the Students’ Union in favour of limiting executive pay to five times that of the lowest paid members of staff, and have voted overwhelmingly (92% in favour) for a motion of no confidence in the Remuneration Committee, which sets senior management pay. The motion states that “the VC’s pay and expenses have become a national news story and a source of embarrassment, detrimental to the reputation of the university as a whole.” It adds: “Our tuition fees would be better spent on learning resources and on ensuring that our lecturers and other staff are treated fairly, than on the VC’s excessive pay and expenses.”

Bath UCU, alongside Unison and Unite, has repeatedly called for transparency, accountability and restraint in university senior management pay, particularly as our members and other colleagues see their own pay and conditions deteriorate. Unfortunately, these calls have fallen on deaf ears. The failure of the University’s governing body to act has now resulted in the issue becoming one of national significance, and embarrassment.

In December, our branch AGM passed a motion stating that “in order to restore confidence, the remuneration committee must include democratically elected staff and student representatives and should be required to publish proper minutes and a list of Key Performance Indicators used to justify executive salaries.” We also have an existing union policy that calls for a maximum 10:1 pay ratio between the highest and lowest paid members of staff.

Your branch Committee is calling a general meeting to give all members an opportunity to discuss these issues, and to formulate a position and plan of action. This meeting will be held on Wednesday 1st February at 13:15, venue TBC. All members are encouraged to attend and contribute.

If you know of colleagues who care about pay inequality and would like to attend, but who are not yet members of the union, please encourage them to join UCU in advance of the meeting.

Regards,

Christopher Roche, on behalf of University of Bath UCU Committee

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