Leader: Summer of discontent

June 16, 2006

Only one poll counts towards the resolution of the pay dispute between academics and their employers - the ballot of University and College Union members. But neither union leaders nor employers can afford to ignore graphic messages from the telephone poll conducted by ICM for The Times Higher.

The underlying message for the employers is in the enduring and deep-seated discontent evident over pay levels. The ICM poll shows no enthusiasm for the pay package either among union members (most said they would not personally accept it) or, most trenchantly for the employers, non-union staff. It also demonstrates that, despite their professionalism, academics are prepared to take action that impacts on students, and would undoubtedly do so again.

Whatever emerges from an independent review, the employers must use the intervening period to address the perception of broken promises and remotivate their biggest asset. There is a parallel responsibility for the union leadership. Rank-and-file discontent will simmer away through the three-year currency of the deal - assuming it is backed in the ballot. That unease is likely to rebound on the UCU unless it can persuade its members to look beyond fee income to boost salaries.

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