Lecturers halt pay militancy

November 5, 1999

Lecturers have suspended industrial action in the old universities over this year's pay offer after more than five months.

The decision, which the Association of University Teachers' executive put into effect on Monday, will be reviewed at the union's December 15 conference.

Delegates will assess whether enough progress has been made towards finding solutions for gender discrimination, casualisation and poor resources. If progress is too slow, the union will propose more serious industrial action.

College and university lecturers' union Natfhe will also decide at its higher education sector conference tomorrow whether to accept the pay offer.

It has been taking an email straw poll of members' views over the past few days. Executive members were due to meet with AUT representatives as The THES went to press to decide what response to recommend.

In the spring, lecturers in old and new universities asked for a 10 per cent pay rise and action to resolve gender discrimination on pay and growing casualisation.

But employers refused to revise their final 3.5 per cent offer. They wanted to wait for mechanisms recommended by Bett to be set up before acting on the other issues.

AUT members staged a day's strike in May and held days of action on exams, graduation ceremonies, admissions and teaching- quality assessment visits.

Natfhe, which has a settlement date of September 1 rather than April 1, held a consultative ballot that indicated support for industrial action this autumn.

But talks over the past few weeks have led to a memorandum of understanding between employers and unions.

The understanding will mean a new round of discussions on the Bett report, a joint union/employer submission to the government's comprehensive spending review and a working group, with Trades Union Congress involvement, to start considering the bargaining machinery recommended by Bett.

Working groups will consider issues of equal pay, equal opportunities and casual employment.

In a letter circulated to AUT members, general secretary David Triesman said:

"The crisis in academic and related pay has been raised for the first time in living memory to the standing of a significant media issue about which there is far greater public understanding."

He said continuing with industrial action would not change the employers' position and was leading to the "isolation of individuals" and "serious tensions" between members and local association leaderships.

While the pay round is likely to be the main focus of attention at the Natfhe conference, the Bett report will also come under discussion. Natfhe's national executive has recommended members to accept the report as a framework for future negotiation, even though it does not agree with all the recommendations, such as peformance-related pay.

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