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local issues

Negotiations over Proposed Professorial Pay System

Background to Negotiations

In 2019 the Professoriate at the University of Bath voted to be represented collectively by UCU. Subsequently, UCU have collective bargaining rights with regards to professorial pay, meaning any agreement on any new Professorial pay system will be negotiated with UCU and apply to the whole Professoriate.

The University has started the process of negotiation on a potential new professorial pay system and shared initial proposals with the branch committee through the Joint Academic Consultation and Negotiating Committee (JACNC). In entering these talks, UCU Bath’s negotiators’ primary aim is to represent the views of members and to reach the best possible deal. As UCU is a national union, we would seek to ensure that any agreement reached adheres as far as possible to the union’s principles for a professorial pay scale. While UCU Bath  is the first branch to have secured collective bargaining rights for professors through a formal ballot, a number of other branches either already had the professoriate included in their local Recognition Agreement with the unions, or have consulted with UCU in respect of professorial pay.

With the agreement of the trade union, the University has now shared  (or will shortly) its proposals with the full professoriate. UCU Bath is now starting the process of consultation with its Professoriate members to elicit their feedback and views. This will take the form, in the first instance, of a Zoom call with members to consider the initial proposals, followed by subsequent collection of feedback via email. Further information regarding timelines will be circulated amongst the UCU Professorial list shortly. The negotiating team will also be seeking volunteers to form a small group who, while not involved in formal negotiations, can inform and support the work of the negotiators.

Clearly, the current proposal includes no detail yet on criteria for progression within, and movement between bands and this will form an important element of the negotiations going forwards. While UCU have agreed, in this instance, that feedback from all members of the Professoriate can be sent to Prof. Hall (maspmh@bath.ac.uk, the branch professoriate rep), ultimately, any final proposals will be put only to UCU members for voting on.

UCU Negotiation Principles for Professorial Pay

As the first branch to win representation of the professoriate via a ballot of its members, these negotiations have important significance at the national level of UCU. This means that the local negotiators can expect expert advice and support, where needed, at the highest levels of the union.

While there is no UCU nationally determined single model for professorial pay scales, the union has set out a number of principles for negotiation, which were developed to support all branches where the employer was engaging with UCU over professorial pay scales. These include the following:

  • The basis for professorial pay should be an extension of the national 51 point pay spine by evenly spaced increments (the 51 point pay spine increases at approximately 3% increments).
  • A professorial grade, or grading structure, should sit alongside that extended pay spine.
  • The extend pay spine (and hence the pay of professorial staff) should be increased in line with the annual pay award as applied to the 51 point pay spine.
  • The length of the grade(s) should be in line with good practice taking into account the need to ensure equal pay for work of equal value and any potential equality issues.
  • The duties required of staff on the professorial grade should be in accordance with the level 5 national academic role profile (in the relevant job family) or locally agreed variant thereof.
  • Criteria for promotion to the professoriate should be based on the agreed level 5 profile.
  • Where the institution wishes to extend pay beyond an agreed professorial grade then this should be done by the introduction of further professorial grades.
  • Where this is agreed, there must be agreed role profiles for each identified additional grade (building on the requirements of the level 5 profile) with clear distinctions between the duties at each grade.
  • In each and every professorial grade there should be expected annual progression to the top of the grade.
  • If any professorial grade(s) includes contribution points beyond the top of the grade there must be agreed, clear and transparent criteria for progression to, and through, any contribution part of the grade.
  • If there is more than one professorial grade there must be equal access to apply for progression or promotion to the next grade based on the agreed profile for the relevant grade.
  • There must also be equal opportunity to undertake activities that are necessary for progression to contribution points and / or the next grade.
  • Any use of accelerated incremental progression within a grade should be in accordance with an agreed policy on such payments which clearly set out the criteria for such payments consistent with Appendix D of the Framework Agreement.
  • Payments beyond the professorial grade(s) will only be made in accordance with an agreed policy for use of attraction and retention premia consistent with Appendix E of the Framework Agreement.
  • Beyond these provisions, there should be no reference to performance related pay.
  • The grade boundaries for each professorial grade (in terms of job evaluation score) should be agreed and published.

As a comparison with the proposals put forward by the University of Bath demonstrates, UCU and the University find themselves in agreement on a number of points already; however, there are also currently significant points of difference.

Initial Conversations Locally

UCU negotiators have been clear in their preliminary conversations with senior management over the proposed professorial pay scale that their primary role is to represent the views of their members. Without having had the opportunity to consult members over the proposals, we made clear that any comments or observations we made during these conversations were therefore not representative of members’ views and thus should not be considered part of the negotiation process.

This important clarification made, UCU reps have raised a few issues which are reiterated below:

  • while the top and bottom salaries proposed were roughly equivalent to, for example, Bristol and Leeds, Bristol’s scale is 24 points and Leeds 22 while Bath is currently proposing a 42 point scale. UCU raised concern that this could exacerbate existing inequalities relating to pay and, even if professors progressed annually within and between bands, would potentially take a whole academic lifetime to be able get to the top of the overall scale. The differential between each pay point is far less than that of other staff who have incremental progression, and makes the professorial pay scale almost as long as the entire pay scale for staff on all other grades in the University.
  • the decision to opt for biennial rather than annual applications to move within or between pay bands was raised as a likely point of contention amongst members. This element of the proposal appears to negotiators be financially driven, particularly when considered alongside the proposed 42 point scale. The increase between points in the proposed scale is significantly smaller than those within the general 51 point pay scale that applies to most staff. If the extremely long pay scale is combined with only biennial opportunities to progress up that scale, this becomes significant. The University has justified a model of biennial review/progression opportunities by suggesting that performance/contribution of senior academic staff is more effectively measured over a longer timescale. UCU’s view, however, is that this is not in itself a justification for this element of the proposal. The issue of what can reasonably be expected of professors in any given academic year, in order for them to progress up any pay scale, is likely to be a key element of the negotiations going forwards.
  • if the proposal is not to go with automatic incremental progression to the top of each band (subject to the usual annual performance review process) which would be UCU’s preferred model – outside of the introductory zone – then a clear and transparent criteria for progression would be required within each band.
  • UCU reps emphasised the importance of a transparent appeals process.

Bath UCU’s current negotiating team for Professorial Pay are Prof. Peter Hall (Prof. Rep), Dr. David Moon (Branch President), Dr. Fran Amery (Branch VP) and Catriona Scott (UCU Regional Official).

Feedback can be sent to Prof. Hall (maspmh@bath.ac.uk), when doing so please use the subject line “Prof Pay”.

 

UCU secures improved deal for FLC staff facing dismissal, but cuts still go ahead

University managers have implemented cuts to the Foreign Languages Centre proposed during the summer. The Centre has lost three (possibly four) languages, seven staff on fractional posts and a further ten staff on zero hours contracts. UCU called for a one year freeze on the proposals to allow wider consultation with staff, students and the local community, but this call was rejected despite a 2600 name petition to the University’s governing body, Council.

UCU secured an improved offer from the University for the seven staff on fractional contracts, together with a promise to review the University’s redundancy avoidance strategy. This offer was made after branch members voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action if there were any compulsory redundancies. There were no compulsory redundancies.

On the plus side the UCU branch managed to win an improved offer (redundancy payments enhanced by 50% for people accepting voluntary redundancy) for those staff on fractional contracts (including non members) who were facing dismissal. The downside is that the enhancement was only 50% and that some people lost their jobs. The other serious problem is that the ten staff on zero hours contracts who lost their jobs were offered NOTHING.

This small gain shows that UCU members have more bargaining power than we might think. Faced with the threat of local action against cuts and job losses, there was some movement from University managers.

For a full review of the dispute and the issues raised see report from UCU Branch Secretary.