LECTURERS may launch a campaign of industrial action early in the new year after chancellor Gordon Brown dashed public sector pay hopes.
The Association of University Teachers warned this week of a looming winter of discontent. The union has given employers a January deadline for responding to their pay claim for 1998/99.
Lecturers' union Natfhe may join the industrial action if pay rises are linked to inflation or below. Unison, the largest higher education sector union with 50,000 members, could also throw its weight behind a campaign.
Union hopes of an above-inflation rise were effectively dashed by Mr Brown in his pre-budget speech last week. He urged workers and employers to think of the long-term future of the economy. "It is in no one's interest if today's pay rise threatens to become tomorrow's mortgage rise," he said.
The AUT has submitted a pay claim to the Universities and Colleges Employers Association. The union is calling for a "significant above-inflation" salary increase.
AUT general secretary David Triesman said that if this did not happen "academics and related staff will, in effect, be facing a pay cut. And they won't stand for that. Vice chancellors must press for permanent pay review."
Liz Allen, head of Natfhe's higher education unit, said: "We have been forced to take a long-term view on pay for an awfully long time now. We are going to be looking for a decent pay rise next year from within existing higher education funding."
Unison's head of higher education Elaine Harrison said that it was likely to demand a substantial increase for all members linked to a minimum wage of Pounds 4.42 an hour.
Higher education unions are to meet next week to discuss a joint approach to their 1998/99 pay claims. Their decisions will be influenced by the establishment of a pay review committee as recommended by Sir Ron Dearing. Sir Ron recommended that the committee report by April next year but employers say this is unlikely.