13 into 1 doesn't go

11th May 2012 at 01:00

Keeping up with the Joneses - if you are a Jones, it's an interesting concept. Keeping up with me would require no more than a slow amble. But with my namesake Chris, it's an entirely different matter.

Chris Jones is the director general of City and Guilds. Last year he was paid #163;449,990, though no doubt he would be quick to point out that this grand sum included more than #163;200,000 of bonuses and expenses ("#163;450,000 for exam boss branded 'inappropriate' at a time of sector cuts", TES, 20 April).

For the same period, as a main-grade lecturer, I was paid #163;37,000. My bonuses and expenses were nil and nil, respectively. A quick calculation shows that you could get 13 lecturer Joneses for the price of one director general Jones. So is the contribution of the boss of the UK's biggest vocational exam board really equivalent in worth to that of 13 educational foot soldiers?

Perhaps we should put this idea to the test and arrange a job swap. I'd happily volunteer to be one of the 13 lecturers to do Chris Jones' job. Yes, it would be tough making difficult policy decisions and sitting through all those expense-account lunches. But with 12 others to help me, I might wangle the odd weekend off, which is more than I can manage as a lecturer.

I'd hazard a guess that my rich namesake would find it harder going. For one thing, he'd have to cover 13 teaching timetables: that's 299 hours in the classroom. As there are only 168 hours available in a week, not even a man worth nearly half a million (including bonuses and expenses) could manage that.

I know, it's absurd. But then you might argue that the situation that led to the conjecture is also absurd: a job in the public sector giving the sort of remuneration the other Mr Jones receives.

It's in line, we are often told, with the private sector. But should it be? No one expects the concept of fairness and worth to apply in the so-called "free" market. Instead, the going rate determines that a security guard is on minimum wage while the managing director of his company rakes in millions. But why should we accept this in the public domain? Mr Jones' employer is a registered educational charity.

Closer to home is the issue of college principals' pay, which continues to barrel on upwards while most staff are stuck in a three-year pay freeze. Last year, six principals earned more than #163;200,000. Could competent replacements really not be found who would do the job for half that?

We are all in it together, David Cameron likes to tell us. In the public sector, we should be. But all the evidence demonstrates that, quite patently and disgracefully, we are not.

Stephen Jones is a lecturer at a college in London.

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