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UCU to 'lift veil on murky world of professorial pay' in legal fight

2 November 2010 | last updated: 11 December 2015

UCU is threatening to 'lift the veil on the murky world of professorial pay' in an equal pay tribunal case this week.

Tomorrow UCU is representing a Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies from Royal Holloway and Bedford New College University of London in a case that it says exposes the scandalous gender pay gap across higher education.

Professor Liz Schafer will claim that, not withstanding her eminence in her field and excellent publication record, she has consistently been under-rewarded in comparison to her male comparators. She claims that one of the reasons for the difference in pay was so-called 'retention payments' made to male colleagues.  The union contends that the payments were not subject to any transparent scrutiny and appear to have favoured men over women.
One of the most contentious aspects of the claim is the college's practice of making retention payments to her male colleagues when learning they had received, or were considering, offers of posts at rival institutions. The tribunal will examine whether such offers could justify higher pay.
The tribunal begins at Reading Employment Tribunal the day after Equal Pay Day - the day of the year when women in effect stop getting paid because of the gender pay gap. The union says it believes the case is the first time professorial pay has been tested in Tribunal and is likely to be an important test case.
The Framework Agreement, which was begun in 2004, attempted to tackle the pay gap in higher education, but professorial grades were not covered by the Agreement. Despite that institutions were encouraged to address any pay parity at professorial level its implementation. However, only 16 are known to have completed equality pay audits for professors.
In evidence submitted to the Tribunal, the union revealed that the average national pay gap between male and female professors was 7.5% in 2007/8. At Royal Holloway the professorial pay gap was 10.6%, one of the highest in the country.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'There is no reason why women should not be in the top jobs in our universities and being properly paid for their work. Fair, open and transparent recruitment and promotion procedures are in everyone's interests, not just women. This case will lift the veil on the murky world of professorial pay and scandalous gender pay gap in our universities.'
The tribunal at Reading Employment Tribunal starts tomorrow and is listed to last up to three weeks.

UPDATE: Royal Holloway agrees settlement with Professor Schafer in a case which is 'expected to have legal ramifications for scores of higher education establishments which do not have equal pay structures in place'. You can also listen to Professor Schafer and UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt discuss the issues on BBC Radio 4's 'Women's Hour' first broadcast on 8 June 2011 [first item, 1m 15s in].