Right time for action

December 16, 2005

Your leader claims that unions are "predating" negotiations with "belligerent noises" when there is an opportunity for a "fresh start" with the advent of the University and College Union ("Unity needs harmony", December 9).

But unions must act now to achieve that fresh start. The new income in the university sector from next year is a one-off opportunity to address long-standing grievances on academic pay. The first three years of this money could bridge the 30 per cent pay gap identified by the Bett report. If institutions allocate it now for matters other than pay rises, it will be difficult to reverse this.

The employers, year after year, have paid lip service to their desire to improve staff pay but claimed they couldn't afford it. Although they can afford it now, the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association consultation with subscribers does not even ask about the possibility of general pay rises.

On January 10 when employers and unions meet, only an offer of more than10 per cent, coupled with proposals to continue to raise basic pay in future years, will avoid a co-ordinated dispute.

Jill Jones
Chair, Natfhe Higher Education Committee

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