Hunt ready to fight for 15 per cent pay rise

May 10, 2002

Employers were handed a "massive IOU" by the Association of University Teachers at its annual council this week, with new general secretary Sally Hunt promising to back up demands for a 15 per cent pay increase with industrial action if necessary, writes Phil Baty.

Ms Hunt, in her first address as general secretary, said she was putting vice-chancellors on notice - "On notice, if they are assuming that this pay round has no relation to previous pay deals," she said, referring to the newly reformed bargaining machinery and the AUT's estimate that academic pay has fallen 40 per cent behind the rise in average earnings in the past 20 years.

"And on notice, if they think they can continue to ride roughshod over our members' needs and interests.

"Now it is time for a fair share," she said. "The employers are already starting the drip-feed of propaganda and spin saying that they do not have the money for a reasonable pay award. Well that's not good enough. They need to understand the facts. It is not how much they can afford, it is how much can they afford not to."

Ms Hunt said that new entrants had to accumulate thousands of pounds of debt, forgo a salary for the years spent studying, spend years on fixed-term contracts and start on a salary as low as £17,600.

She said any pay settlement "must recognise that starting salaries are woefully low and must be seriously increased" and that this was the year in which employers had to "make inroads into the current abuse of fixed-term contracts".

She said that any agreement "must enable us to look our members in the eye. I will not abuse members' goodwill with industrial action that serves no purpose, but where necessary, this union will be prepared to take action to win."

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