THE ASSOCIATION of University Teachers has condemned the Labour party's threatened public sector pay freeze and warned that a fledgling Blair government could face industrial action unless the proposals are dropped.
AUT activists at last week's winter council meeting voted overwhelmingly for an emergency motion, proposed by the Loughborough University branch, "utterly condemning in the strongest possible terms" the pay freeze proposals outlined by shadow chancellor Gordon Brown.
The motion instructed the AUT general secretary David Triesman and the national executive to make the union's view clear to Mr Brown and the shadow education team. The AUT is committed to campaigning against a pay freeze, coordinating action with other higher education and public sector unions.
Mr Triesman told the council: "It is inconceivable that we will be acquiescent if a Labour government treats us in the same way as this Government has treated us."
The pay freeze row appears to have hardened the AUT's attitude to the pay dispute, specifically its calls for the establishment of an independent pay review body for academics and related staff.
An AUT survey of MPs has revealed that, of the 163 Labour MPs responding, 83 per cent were for a review body.
Of 89 Conservative respondents 42 per cent were for and only 4 per cent against while all 23 Liberal Democrat MPs were for a review body.
The association already has members' approval to escalate the pay dispute if university employers fail to commit themselves to supporting a review body. It is to call on lecturer's union Natfhe and the Association of University and College Lecturers to join them in a secret ballot of members to establish the strength of support for a review body.
The AUT was due to meet with employers yesterday to discuss the latest academic and related pay offer of 5.8 per cent over two years. The union's executive was set to meet today to consider its response in the light of the bargaining meeting. The Manufacturing Science and Finance union, representing technicians, was also set to meet employers yesterday and it was thought likely that it would accept the 5.8 per cent.
Natfhe and the AUCL met employers on Wednesday but, while it was thought likely that Natfhe would accept the offer, both decided to defer any announcement until after today's meeting of all eight unions.
The four manual unions - GMB, AEEU, T&G and Unison - are set to accept their separate offer of 7.3 per cent over two years.