Prudence on pay

November 21, 2003

If the Association of University Teachers is at odds with colleagues in other unions (Jocelyn Prudence, Letters, THES , November 14), it is because it does not strike two-year pay deals at 4am when one is apt to miss the small point in the small print that there is nothing to stop the second-year "deal" from becoming a real-terms pay cut if inflation moves up a mere fraction.

Members of some other unions would have been far more effectively served by maintaining unity in the face of employers whose own pay rise is always separately and privately agreed and consistently rises in percentage terms at least twice the rate of that offered to any other member of staff.

The new pay framework may well offer a few mechanisms for ironing out some of the more obvious inequalities but, crucially, if we allow it to be attached to pay packets that have been deliberately deflated over the past ten years, then the advertised upward steps offer, at best, only a bit of what we are owed.

The higher education unions need some grit. They need to remind themselves of their potential power. Not by strikes, in which the members wave a flag of dismay while handing back a day's pay to the employer. Their real strength lies in a simple, straightforward course of action that sends the plain message that we are not to be taken for granted. A full assessment boycott, for example, creates a legal minefield for the employers of students failing to graduate at the end of the course.

Genuine prudence argues for a resolution by restitution before the adoption of a structure that, inevitably, suits the employer far more than the employees.

Andrew Morgan
Swansea

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