Amicus in Higher Education: Issue 4-Jan05

Government Ignoring Animal Researchers in Universities
Staff put in £23 billion in Unpaid Overtime
Private Schools Retain Charity Status
Cambridge University Report on a New Pay & Grading Structure
Local Government Pensions Crisis
Tribunal Compensation Increases Announced Government Ignoring Animal Researchers in Universities

The Home office consultation on ‘Policing: Modernising Police Powers to Meet Community Needs’ recognises the importance of protecting researchers and employees based at commercial premises from the threat of animal extremists. However, there are no similar assurances for university based researchers. This is despite the Royal Society pointing out that the safety of university researchers had not been explicitly considered in ‘Animal Welfare – Human Rights: protecting people from animal rights extremists’ which was published by the Home Office. A survey conducted by the Society has also shown that security measures against animal rights extremists are costing UK universities a total in excess of £9 million per year, money that could be used for research and higher education. Mike Robinson, National Officer said “the safety of our members is paramount, we agree with the Royal Society that university researchers have been left out in the cold and would encourage Government to address this as soon as possible, we are also most concerned that universities are having to spend such large amounts of money protecting their staff and research establishments’. For further information please go to www.royalsoc.ac.uk

Staff put in £23 billion in Unpaid Overtime

In 2004 UK employees worked unpaid overtime worth £23 billion, according to the TUC. They analysed a series of official statistics, which indicated that each employee who did overtime would have earned £4650 for their unpaid work if paid at their usual hourly rate. The TUC has called for Friday 25 February 2005 to be ‘Work your Proper Hours Day’, it is encouraging employees to only work their contracted hours on this day and also suggests that Britain’s bosses should take their staff out to lunch or a coffee to thank them for their hard work and commitment. Mike Robinson, National Officer commented, “this is a purely non-confrontational campaign by the TUC, but it does highlight the fact that UK workers work the longest hours in Europe and should flag up to employers that there are steps that can be taken to ensure that their employees enjoy a work-life balance’. For further information please go to www.tuc.org.uk

Private Schools Retain Charity Status

Private schools have escaped the crackdown on the tax breaks they receive by having charity status. It had been assumed that the long-awaited Charity Bill would end the charitable status of some private education establishments. The first major reform of charity law for 400 years hinted that private schools would be stripped of their status, however the Bill now indicates that schools can retain their status at the discretion of the Charity Commission. Schools will need to undertake a ‘public benefit’ test to prove they serve the wider community, if they want to retain their charitable status. The definition of ‘public benefit’ will be left up to the interpretation of the Charity Commission and there will be no statutory definition. The Bill requires the commission to draw up a new definition of what constitutes a ‘public benefit’ and to set out guidance to all charities on how to achieve it. The Charity Commission has indicated that it will begin its review by looking at fee-charging charities and the review will include a consultation on whether the definition is ‘clear and intelligible’ to the general public. The Government hopes that the measure will end a long running stand-off between charity reformers and the private sector on whether organisations that charge high fees should continue to benefit from the tax breaks, kudos and fundraising power that goes with being a registered charity. For further information about the Charity Bill please go to www.charity-commission.gov.uk

Cambridge University Report on a New Pay & Grading Structure

Cambridge University Council and General Board have issued a consultative report regarding proposals for pay of the staff of the university. The report indicates that the university is looking to reward its staff more appropriately, permit the university to compete effectively in local, national and international labour markets. Amicus representatives have a number issues they wish to discuss with the University including lack of information about the application of the grading scheme. Mike Robinson National Officer said, ” Cambridge University decided to issue its proposals for job evaluation and spine points outside of the Framework. There have been limited discussions at local level about ignoring the Framework. I am visiting Cambridge shortly to impress upon the HR management that the lack of progress is worrying for us as a union. Our members have a real lack of confidence in the way the management are proceeding” For further information about the report please go to www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2003-04/weekly/5970/23.html

Local Government Pensions Crisis

The Local Government Pensions Scheme (LGPS) covers staff directly employed in local government, in the police force, large numbers in higher and further education, the environment agency and the community and voluntary sectors, as well as a number of staff employed in out-sourced public services. The LGPS is a nationally funded, statutory final-salary scheme. This means the contributions are invested into funds which are then used to pay peoples’ pensions on retirement. The Government has proposed changes to the LGPS planned for introduction in April 2005 and there are two key issues. The Government are bringing forward new regulations to alter the current retirement age in the LGPS and there will also be a consultation on the Government proposal for a totally new local government pension scheme to come into force from April 2008. One of the key issues that Amicus has raised is that changes to the LGPS in England and Wales is being implemented a year before anywhere else in the public sector, there has been insufficient research to ascertain how many people these changes will affect, there are deficits in a number of local authority pensions schemes and this is the root of the problem – contribution holidays in the past need to be addressed and any changes to the existing LGPS should be halted until a full strategic review can take place. Amicus National Officers have called for a Summit of all three public sector groups affected including some Higher Education schemes. The Summit is being held on the 7th February 2005. Senior representatives from Higher Education will be present. Full details of how the union proposes to deal with the Government proposals will be issued via a Circular shortly. Further details will be issued form the Coventry Higher Education Office or go to our web site www.amicustheunion.org to take part in our online pensions survey.

Tribunal Compensation Increases Announced

The DTI has announced the annual increase in maximum limits of compensation to be awarded by employment tribunals. The headline increases are, maximum compensation for unfair dismissal to increase from £55,000 to £56,800, maximum amount of a ‘weeks pay’ (for calculating statutory redundancy pay or the basic award for unfair dismissal) to increase from £270 to £280, minimum basic award for certain defined dismissals (relating to certain employee representative, health & safety and working time cases) to increase from £3600 to 3800. The new limits will apply where a dismissal occurs, or where a dismissed employees notice period expires, on or after 1 February 2005.

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