RHUL-UCU made equalities a priority for 2018. Equal Pay Audits have shown Royal Holloway with a large and increasing gender pay gap and poor representation of BAME and disabled staff, notably at the most senior levels of management.
Following damaging publicity highlighting senior management’s out-dated attitudes, RHUL-UCU’s current Equalities and Diversity Officer, Professor Jeff Frank, and former Equalities and Diversity Officer, Professor Clare Bradley, were invited by senior management to devise suggestions for reducing the gender pay gap. These included, among others, ensuring that all staff were considered for promotion and professorial banding; greater clarity in appointments to panels; having a diverse panel membership; preventing the same individuals judging colleagues at each assessment stage; and, crucially, an independent appeals process on promotion and banding decisions.
No HR officer attended the meeting, held on 14 March 2018, and senior management failed to follow up discussions despite promising to do so. The flicker of interest in gender and BAME inequality seemingly faded alongside waning damaging national and local publicity.
When, soon afterwards, Times Higher Education reported that Royal Holloway was 5th from the bottom in the gender pay gap league table for all staff in British universities, it was a shaming outcome for an institution founded to promote female education.
As is widely discussed, Human Resources at Royal Holloway has been a troubled department for many years. In more recent times, it has had neither the capacity nor the inclination for constructive engagement with staff, and prefers to suppress justifiable criticism. Managerial authoritarianism and union-bashing are cover for its shortcomings in not setting a creative long-term agenda, and it has so far never put forward any viable plan to address the College’s failures in gender pay and other inequalities.
Jeff has been suspended as a result of his case-work on behalf of other members of staff, and he is not at the moment able to act as the branch Equalities and Diversity Officer. Legally, suspension from work is not a neutral act; it should follow due process; it should not be undertaken so lightly; and it should not be used to stifle dissent or the rights of staff to state their case. HR’s hard-line approach to the pension strike did not reflect an ambition to create a top-rank academic community and institution, and Jeff’s suspension and other recent failings show that the lessons of the strike have not been learnt.
Posted on behalf of members of the RHUL-UCU committee.