Bosses aid recruiting, say gleeful unions

March 31, 2006

Whatever else it may achieve, the pay dispute will have worked wonders for union recruitment, writes Alan Thomson.

Both the Association of University Teachers and lecturers' union Natfhe have reported a membership boom since the start of the dispute on March 7.

The AUT reports gaining 1,300 new members in the past month compared with an average of 780 recruits a year in the past six years. It has more than 44,000 members.

Natfhe said it added 1,000 new recruits this year to its total of 20,000 higher education members. The union said this was two-and-a-half times more than the number recruited at this time last year.

The employers' behaviour is a contributing factor, according to the unions.

Sally Hunt, the AUT's general secretary, said: "The short-termist confrontational approach of some vice-chancellors to this industrial action has been a wonderful union recruitment drive.

"Unsurprisingly, threats of pay docking, suggestions staff are already well paid and the - at times - sheer contempt shown to staff by managers have prompted much anger and bitterness."

Roger Kline, head of the universities department at Natfhe, said: "The surge in higher education membership recruitment this year is clear evidence of the massive support for our pay campaign. Lecturers feel a real sense of injustice over the employers' refusal to treat them in the same way as they treated themselves."

The Universities and Colleges Employers' Association was unable to comment.

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