Don't squeal if strikers lose pay 1

March 10, 2006

I, like your writer last week, have left the Association of University Teachers over its pay dispute (Opinion, March 3). And I agree that much of the blame for the industrial action rests with the unions and their infantile posturing.

But blame should also be attributed to the employers - for the pusillanimous way they handled the dispute of two years ago. Most universities allowed academics (including me) to take "action short of a strike" without suffering any consequences. As a result, this is now seen as the easy way to take a very effective form of industrial action.

Rumours that this time staff engaging in action short of a strike will have some of their pay withheld indicate a move in the right direction. But the response should be to send home, without pay, anyone who refuses to fulfil their job description. The AUT will squeal about "punitive" action. But it is not punitive to refuse to pay people who are not doing the job for which they are contracted. Anyone who doubts this should ask friends in other occupations what would happen if they refused to undertake parts of their job.

Philip Cowley Nottingham University

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