AUT pay deal left activists in the lurch

December 17, 1999

Lecturers from the pre-1992 universities have condemned leaders of their union for their handling of the recent pay dispute and called on them not to settle without balloting members.

Delegates to the Association of University Teachers' winter council on Wednesday dropped calls for the resignation of union president Alan Carr and general secretary David Triesman.

But they agreed motions deploring suspension of the campaign of industrial action and criticising the way in which the union executive handled the dispute.

Union leaders agreed to suspend industrial action over this year's 3.5 per cent pay offer in November after drawing up a memorandum of understanding with employers that agreed to set up working groups on casualisation and gender discrimination.

But many members were furious that they had not been consulted.

Speaking before the council, which was closed to the press, Wendy Richards, president of Keele AUT, said: "We stuck our necks out for this. Members put their own working conditions on the line and got themselves into difficulties with their heads of department and suddenly they find the rug pulled out from under their feet. What we are concerned about is: are members going to take this sort of thing seriously after being so let down this year?"

Mr Triesman said: "I think of the campaign as an away draw." While it had not secured an increase in the pay offer, academic pay had been brought to political attention. But he acknowledged that there was much to learn from it.

"I think we should be more thoughtful about the propositions that we tell people to fight for," he said.

The winter council also agreed the union's salary claim for next year. This calls on employers "to acknowledge the objective need for a 30 per cent pay increase to catch up with average earnings over the past two decades" and to commit to implementing "such catch-up salary increases as can be afforded from their existing and planned resources".

It wants employers to work with the union and others to press the government to meet any shortfall and to introduce a pay review body.

The AUT "anticipates" a catch-up increase to be spread over the next four years, by which time it expects comprehensive changes in pay and conditions to be in place.

It also wants gender discrimination in pay to stop by the end of next year.

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