Strike a blow for the small fry 1

January 27, 2006

While the threat of strike action by the Association of University Teachers and lecturers' union Natfhe hangs over all in the higher education sector ("Flexing muscles will not improve the figure", January 20), perhaps it is time to hear a different perspective.

We at Westminster University's Students' Union are employed to represent the needs of an exceedingly diverse body of students. These people should take priority over the political posturings of a group on the verge of a merger.

We feel that the unions' threats to strike unless their demands for a blanket 20 per cent pay increase are met are at best ill advised and at worst severely disruptive to the education of the most important people at university - the students.

While we recognise that lecturers need to have their pay reviewed and increased after the Bett recommendations, and that they deserve a decent slice of the top-up-fee pie, the AUT and Natfhe seem out of touch with the needs of students. If the unions' demands are met, after bursaries and scholarships this will leave little to be spent in key areas that enhance the student experience, such as reducing the staff-student ratio and investing in libraries, information technology and support systems.

We urge the unions to get back around the table with the Universities and Colleges Employers' Union to discuss this issue in a mature fashion and put the interest of the millions of students around the country first.

Sarah Bell, Rayhan Rafiq Omar and Rob Watson Westminster University Students' Union

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