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Call for fairer pay ahead of University of Southampton vice-chancellor appointment

16 October 2018 | last updated: 18 October 2018

Staff at the University of Southampton have launched a petition insisting any new vice-chancellor must commit the university to paying the real living wage to staff and receive a salary no more than 20 times greater than the lowest paid employee.

The local branch of UCU says the university has so far failed to consult meaningfully with staff and students ahead of the appointment of their new vice-chancellor.

The university's governing body - Council - has ultimate responsibility for the selection and appointment of the new vice-chancellor. Council will next meet on Wednesday 28 November when Southampton UCU plans to present the petition.  

Sir Christopher Snowden announced his retirement as vice-chancellor earlier this year. UCU says the appointment of a new vice-chancellor is the perfect opportunity for the university to reappraise its plans and work with staff and students.

Sir Christopher Snowden's tenure was marred by controversy over his £433,000 pay package, at a time he was seeking to sack staff. During his time the university also came under fire for hiring a chauffeur for senior staff and for falsely claiming Snowden was not a member of the committee that set his pay.

In the academic year 2015-16 the university paid a total of £697,000 to Snowden and his predecessor Don Nutbeam in the form of salaries, bonuses, and, for Nutbeam, a "golden goodbye" worth £250,000.

Catherine Pope, president UCU Southampton branch, said: 'Staff here feel demoralised and devalued after several years of restructuring and a summer of redundancies and cuts to frontline staff. The changes have been highly disruptive and costly in terms of time and money, and have distracted us from our world leading education and research. 

'The appointment of a new vice-chancellor can have a profound effect on the reputation of the University of Southampton and on the lives of all who work and study here. Council has to get this next appointment right and, along with the senior management, start listening to staff concerns.

'The university should embrace this opportunity to promote a plan that protects jobs, enhances education and delivers a fairer pay structure. Staff and students rightly feel aggrieved that the vice-chancellor takes home over £400,000 a year when staff face redundancies and some of the lowest paid workers on campus rely on foodbanks.'