University employer speaks with forked tongue on RPI

My New Year’s Day prediction of their shamelessness has now come true!

“…he made the Serpent, linguam bisulcam, a forked tongue, to speake that, which was contrary to his knowledge and meaning…” (from the Sermons of Lancelot Andrewes, 1606)

University employers have just announced their opening pay offer of 1.7% for 2018–19.

When employers announced their opening pay offer for 2017–18 in March of last year (2017), I wrote the following about their offer from the previous year (2016):

Last year’s [e.g., March 2016] university employers’ defence of a 1.1% pay increase [for 2016–17] went on and on about how RPI is a statistically unsound measure of inflation, which should be rejected in favour of CPI, which tends to report lower inflation. I then pointed out in the linked blog post (a version of which was also published in the THES) that our employer is, however, perfectly happy to embrace the higher RPI measure of inflation when it comes to their justification of tuition fee hikes. Our employer has just come out with its latest pay offer: 1.2%. But I have noticed that they have removed all of their attacks on RPI from their justification of their low pay offer, this time around.

On January 1st of this year, I made the following prediction, on Chris Brooke’s “official 2018 forecasting thread”, regarding this year’s pay offer:

Now that, unlike rail fares, tuition fees are no longer allowed to increase by RPI, UK university employers will remember that they believe that RPI is a statistically unsound measure of inflation in their pay dispute with the union, after having temporarily forgotten this during 2017, the one year when the £9k tuition fee was allowed to increase by RPI.

Sure enough, our employer has now recovered from their unfortunate bout of amnesia, and their memory has returned! Their 23 March 2018 statement repeats their claim from the March 2016 statement — but conveniently omitted from their March 2017 statement — that “The Retail Prices Index is no longer a National Statistic and the National Statistician ‘strongly discourages’ its use due to superior alternatives”.

Once again, in two words: sheer chutzpah.

Written by

Professor, Dept. of Philosophy, Logic & Scientific Method, LSE

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