Higher Education E Bulletin Issue 28 Feb 2008

  • HE Support Staff Unions’ statement on National Bargaining in Higher Education
  • Developments for Technical Staff in the Republic of Ireland
  • Technicians Skills
  • HEaTED (Higher Education & Technicians Education and Development)
  • Raising the Professional Profile of Technical/ Specialist Staff
  • Leeds Health & Safety Partnership project
  • Watch Your Step in Education HSE courses
  • Universities UK Greening spires / Universities and the green agenda report


As reported in last month’s bulletin, negotiations over the future structure of the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff Committee (JNCHES) have been taking place.

A provisional agreement has been reached with all HE trade unions on the reform of the JNCHES negotiating machinery. To read the statements on the changes on the UCEA website

Unions have already agreed in principle however as some of you will be aware UCU is currently balloting its members over the deal.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) has made it clear that a rejection of this deal will lead to the break up of national negotiations:

All the support staff unions are strongly opposed to the break up of national bargaining. Below is a copy of the statement released by support staff unions on the issue.

HE Support Staff Unions’ statement on National Bargaining in Higher Education

The best way of advancing the agenda of all higher education workers is through the united strength of the HE unions. That agenda includes the fight to end low pay, to resist crushing workloads, the threat of privatisation and maintenance of the national contract in post-92 universities.

A pre-requisite for that unity is the continuation of national bargaining. The support staff unions (Unison, Unite and GMB) have consistently backed national single table bargaining which would enhance collective working. The alternative of local bargaining would lead to less stability and a local free for all with more local disputes and inequalities.

Single table bargaining is not about applying a veto to other union’s demands, it is about ensuring fair pay for all workers, recognising that equal pay laws limit differential pay awards for different groups, and avoiding the employers’ playing off one union against another or any unhealthy elitism.

Support staff unions reached a compromise with UCU negotiators at the end of last year, acknowledging their concerns (from the UCU conference). This led to a joint approach to the employers bringing further movement from UCEA and a final draft agreement. These new bargaining arrangements would not stop any union, including UCU from negotiating or pushing issues specific to their membership, or crucially from taking industrial action.

We take seriously the UCEA message that the deal on the table is the final one – with no further talks or changes or chances. The HE support staff unions are ready to accept the agreement brokered by all unions with UCEA last month. Suggestions that a ‘no’ vote in the UCU ballot will allow UCU to bargain alone are unrealistic. The danger is that a ‘no’ vote would divide the unions within HE, hasten the end of national bargaining and presage a local free for all where a few staff in a few institutions might prosper (to start with) whilst the majority lose out.

Unite, UNISON and the GMB

Developments for Technical Staff in the Republic of Ireland

Unite Amicus section have negotiated significant changes in the role and professional status of Technical Staff in the Higher Education Sector of Republic of Ireland.

These changes have increased the professional profile and status of what are now called Technical Officers, Senior Technical Officers and Chief Technical Officers in the Higher Education sector. As well as the redefinition and grading, a new scale rate has been implemented yielding significant salary increases above national wage agreements in the order of 12% to 14%. Payment of increases was backdated from September 2006 to April 2001 because of earlier work by the Irish Labour Court who set up an expert group to make recommendations about other technical staff working in medical areas in the Republic.

The arrangements ensure a common system across all Irish Universities.

Mike Robinson National Officer said The details of these arrangements were reported to a joint North/South meeting or HE reps in Dundalk recently. The changes are significant and are due in no small measure to Unite HE representatives who sat on the expert group. My thanks to all involved in this groundbreaking deal.

There is now a new page on the Unite Amicus section website dedicated to these arrangements for technical members in the Irish Republic : Click here to read a briefing on recent changes:

Click here to see salary scales for University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin:

Technicians Skills

Unite has long been campaigning to reverse the accelerating skills shortage in higher education technicians.

The shortage has been caused by a lack of formal opportunities for technicians to obtain training, poor investment and systems of career development, low comparative pay, under funding, redundancies and difficulties with staff recruitment and retention in the sector.

Specifically Unite has been calling for:

  • A national training programme for this valuable group.
  • Funding grants to include specific investment ring fenced for these jobs.
  • The end to the use of PhD students and post doctorates as a waste of universities research resources.
  • Proper systems of career development for HE support staff.

Early in January the Times Higher Education supplement ran an article on the issue. Also click here to read a letter in response from Tamsin Piper, UCL Branch Secretary:

National Officer Mike Robinson said “Unite will continue to campaign on this issue in both the UK and Ireland . Highly skilled technicians are a vital part of a university’s staff and as such they deserve better training and skill enhancement”.

HEaTED (Higher Education & Technicians Education and Development)

HEaTED is a project that aims to create a professional body for technical/specialist staff in higher education. It is supported by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.

Unite is a supporter of HEaTED (as we were of HESDA) and as such the union would like technicians to add their names to the HEaTED mail base so technicians may be contacted directly about forthcoming training events.

You are invited to contact HEaTED and to add your contact details to their database so you can be contacted first hand about the plans and projects that HEaTED hope to offer in coming months. Read more about HEaTED on the Unite Amicus website or on the Stirling web site.

Find out how to add yourself to the HEaTED contacts list:

Raising the Professional Profile of Technical/ Specialist Staff

(A one day joint HEaTED/IST Conference)


Among the speakers already confirmed for this event are: John Perkins, (Dean and Vice President, University Manchester/Chair of the HEATED project), Jacqueline Goodall, University of Leeds , John Robinson, (Chair IST), Bob Hardwick (HEaTED Project Consultant) Matt Levi (HEaTED Project Manager).

Venue: Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester.
Date: Tuesday, 10th June 2008.
Fee: £75.00 per delegate inclusive of coffee/tea and lunch.

£60.00 per delegate if nominating 5 delegates or more.

Completed nomination forms should be returned by Friday 2nd May 2008 to:

Wendy Mason, Institute of Science & Technology, 90 Rockingham Street , Sheffield S1 4EB or fax: 0114 272 6354 Click here for the flyer:

Leeds Health & Safety Partnership project

Unite has signed up to a pioneering partnership agreement to promote and safeguard the safety and health of staff and students at the University of Leeds .

All workplace unions and management signed up to a declaration that health and safety is the University’s highest priority is at the heart of the partnership, which is backed by a substantial annual investment of 1.4m in safety, together with an awareness-raising campaign and a package of improvements.

The partnership, the first of its kind in higher education, recognises unions and managers as equal partners in making the campus a safe environment for all its staff, students and visitors through achieving the highest possible standards in health and safety.

What is in the agreement?

  • The appointment of the first director of health, safety and wellbeing in a UK university, supported by a professional team of 18 staff
  • A doubling of the health and safety budget to 1.4m over two years
  • New campus-wide health and safety standards
  • A new website and online risk assessment package
  • Health and safety learning packages’ for staff
  • A health and safety DVD to be seen by all 8,000 campus staff
  • A six-month high profile awareness-raising campaign.

To find out more about the agreement click here:

Watch Your Step in Education HSE courses

55% of all accidents in education are caused by a slip or a trip. Last year, almost 2000 major injury slip and trip accidents in the education sector were reported to the Health and Safety Executive, 571 of which were to employees, a 5% rise on the previous year. 90% of major accidents resulted in a broken bone causing considerable personal distress and a significant amount of time away from work.

To attend the Health and Safety executives courses follow the links: Web site

Events – several events already arranged.

To register an interest in attending, fill in the ‘contact us’ page

Universities UK Greening spires / Universities and the green agenda report

Universities UK has produced a report highlighting the work that different universities are doing on the climate change agenda.

Unite believes that Universities should be practicing what they preach when it comes to cutting emissions and that unions should be involved in shaping that change. Click here to read the report:

This e-bulletin has been produced by James Lazou, Research Officer for the Higher Education sector. If you have any news items or stories you would like included in the bulletin please contact James

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