university boycott grows

WORKERS, NOV 2004 ISSUE

Since 20 September, the Association of University Teachers has been boycotting the University of Nottingham. The AUT called the boycott because Nottingham's Vice Chancellor is refusing to honour his commitment to negotiate a pay and grading settlement in line with that agreed between national university employers and the principal teaching unions, AUT and NATFHE. Many universities have honoured this agreement and begun to implement changes whilst others, particularly London Metropolitan University, are trying to sack staff and worsen their working conditions.

The Nottingham Vice Chancellor is bent on introducing performance-related pay for staff, with loss of earnings of around 9,000 over six years for some. Other staff would lose the entitlement to belong to the national university pension scheme.

Reaction to the move to introduce PRP has been swift, as lecturers recognise the threat, not only to immediate earnings, but also to academic standards. A successful university functions on teamwork and collegiality - both are threatened by performance related pay. In addition, the scheme is seen by many to involve a high degree of arbitrary managerial discretion, which can encourage subjective bias and result in systematic discrimination. This is born out by evidence which shows PRP results in more inequality between men and women, and staff on fixed-term contracts rarely receive a full share of discretionary awards.

The boycott is already successful. Visiting lecturers are cancelling lectures and delegates are withdrawing from conferences. Organisations are also relocating their conferences away from the Nottingham campus. For example, the Historical Geography Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society was due to hold a conference for research postgraduate students in Nottingham's School of Geography on 3 November. As a result of the AUT action, the Research Group will now hold its conference at the Institute of Historical Research in London.

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