Graham Fowler eavesdrops on a discussion between the Education Minister and his personal secretary

4th May 2007 at 01:00

Minister: How am I supposed to keep lecturers happy?

Secretary: Pay them well, ensure they have long holidays and don't have too much tedious admin.

Minister: I'm being serious. Anyway, I want to keep them happy, not delirious.

Secretary: It might be worth trying; you could even become a popular education minister.

Minister: The problem is this report saying lecturers are as unhappy about red tape and bureaucracy as they are about salaries this year.

Secretary: Well, they will be, Minister. After all, you have increased salaries in comparative terms.

Minister: So, they have less need to worry about that. You would think they would be grateful.

Secretary: Grateful, Minister? Let us just examine the reasons why they might not be joyous: true, their salaries have increased, but they still do not match those in schools.

Minister: Well, no, but there is only 10 per cent difference now.

Secretary: Remember, Minister, how important differentials between workers are in union circles.

Minister: You don't have to remind me. But what am I to do?

Secretary: You could always find that 10 per cent.

Minister: Gordon Brown says no.

Secretary: Ahh. What about reducing the administrative burden?

Minister: We're looking at that. But even the union says that they don't blame college managers.

Secretary: That is not an undiluted blessing, Minister.

Minister: Why not?

Secretary: If college principals are not to blame, it must be the Department.

Minister: But I don't determine how many student assignments lecturers have to mark.

Secretary: Well, you probably could, Minister. Although if you did, it would result in unions focusing exclusively on financial rewards again.

Minister: That would be even worse.

Secretary: Another triumph for bureaucracy then, Minister.

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