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Ministers must act 'immediately' on vice-chancellors pay, says Labour MP

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MINISTERS should “immediately” intervene to redistribute the salaries of education fat cats to striking lecturers, Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle demanded today.

Edinburgh University’s new principal Peter Mathieson is under fire for a £410,000 pay package — and he won’t even need to pay rent on his five-bed grace-and-favour city-centre home.

He is just the latest university chief to face criticism over his bloated takings. Last night Brighton MP Mr Russell-Moyle told the Star that the government should slash remuneration for university chiefs and use the savings to ease pressure on the pensions of junior staff.

Mr Mathieson will trouser a basic salary of £342,000 — 33 per cent higher than that of his predecessor.

He will also receive £42,000 in lieu of pension contributions, plus £26,000 for relocation costs, taking his package up to £410,000.

But the university insisted its new boss had actually taken a pay cut.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at 61 universities are set to strike later this month against vice-chancellors’ plans to abolish their pensions scheme.

The current scheme guarantees pensions based on final salaries. Employers’ organisation Universities UK plans to replace it with a scheme in which pensioners’ income would depend on the vagaries of the stock market. 

Mr Russell-Moyle, who worked in the education and youth sectors before being elected to Parliament last year, said: “The starkest injustice is that universities have contracted out their core services such as estates to companies which are employing people on the minimum wage.

“Vice-chancellors are then taking home amounts 10, 20 or even 50 times as much as the lowest-paid cleaner.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to impose a 20:1 pay ratio on public-sector organisations when he gets the keys to No 10. But Mr Russell-Moyle challenged the government to go further.

“I’m calling on ministers to make an immediate intervention to cut vice-chancellors’ pay, so it’s no more than 10 times that of the lowest-paid,” he said. “We could then redistribute the savings to the pensions of the people who actually make these institutions tick.”

UCU said Mr Mathieson’s package was “extraordinary” at a time when universities are under fire for the excessive pay and perks of their leaders.

Bath vice-chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell announced she would step down in November, after criticism of her reported £468,000 package.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Edinburgh must have looked at months of terrible headlines for higher education about pay and perks and considered the growing unrest about efforts to slash staff pensions.

“They have considered all this and decided a massive salary hike, a welcome package over £400,000 and a five-bed central Edinburgh home is the best response. It is quite incredible.

“Universities have promised time and again to get to grip with excessive senior pay and perks, yet this latest example shows they have no intention of doing so.”

University staff will start an escalating programme of 14 strike days with a two-day walkout on February 22 and 23.

A University of Edinburgh spokesman said: “It was judged that this level of salary was appropriate to attract the best candidate in an internationally competitive field and that it was commensurate with the size and scale of the responsibilities of the job.

“It was recognised that this represents a significant pay cut for Professor Mathieson. In absolute terms, this salary level is in the second quartile of the Russell Group vice-chancellors’ pay.”

The university said the relocation payment was for “the one-off costs incurred associated with the packing, freighting and delivery of Professor Mathieson’s furniture and personal belongings to Edinburgh from Hong Kong by an international removal firm.”

A new code of practice drawn up by the Committee of University Chairs says universities must justify the pay packets of their top executives. But campaigners say these new rules are not tough enough.

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