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Under fire university hit with race and gender equality probe

23 July 2008 | last updated: 14 December 2015

Coventry University has today been asked to prove that it is not breaking the law over its controversial new proposals to alter its pay and conditions for staff.

The university has already been accused of attempting to hoodwink staff into signing up for a complex and bureaucratic performance-related pay system that could leave many of them worse off.

UCU, which represents lecturers at the university, confirmed today that it has written to the vice-chancellor, Madeleine Atkins, to ask what, if anything, the university has done regarding its obligations under the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 and the Gender Equality Duty (2007) to ensure that it is not acting unlawfully with the new proposed pay and conditions.

The legislation referred to places a requirement on all public authorities, including universities, to carry out impact assessments on the grounds of race and gender. In total, UCU has asked the university to provide information on 30 issues covering such matters as merit pay, sick leave, working hours and promotions procedures.

Martin Machon, UCU assistant general secretary, said: 'Staff at Coventry University have already voted unanimously to reject the proposed changes to their pay and conditions. We are genuinely concerned that in their haste to rush these proposals through at a quiet time of year, with minimum fuss, Coventry University has ignored equality legislation. It is of paramount importance that it proves to us, and the local community, that it hasn't.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'The fact that nobody from Coventry University would openly debate their proposals with UCU spoke volumes about what the proposals really mean. The university walked out on talks we had scheduled with them and have rejected our requests for mediation. The staff have made it quite clear that strikes are a real possibility, however, even at this late stage, we urge the university to return to the negotiating table. Industrial action is not in the interests of anyone associated with Coventry University.'

The current impasse at Coventry relates to a National Framework Agreement drawn up in 2004 between all UK universities and trade unions; the specific terms of which were left to be thrashed out locally. The proposals put forward by Coventry University do not conform to the requirements of the Framework Agreement and UCU members have made it clear that, unless steps are taken to resolve the conflict, staff may be forced to take industrial action.

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