Lecturers' union Natfhe this week warned that it may yet join the Association of University Teachers on the picket lines in protest at this year's pay offer by employers, writes Phil Baty.
The union's higher education executive committee agreed at a meeting late last week that it could not yet recommend the pay package to Natfhe members after failing to reach agreement with employers on pay levels for part-time staff and on plans for performance-related pay.
Speaking to The Times Higher ahead of final crunch talks this week, Roger Kline, Natfhe's head of universities, said that while the union remained hopeful of recommending the 6.44 per cent two-year deal to members, there remained "substantial differences" on part-timers and performance-related pay.
Natfhe's problem is that it is keen to secure an agreement on pay as there are fears that failure to achieve this will lead to universities imposing local pay deals. However, the numbers of hourly paid, part-time staff equal full-time numbers at some institutions.
While such staff do much of the teaching, they are paid only for the hours they spend in the classroom. Natfhe wants recognition of the time they spend on preparation, assessment, administration, scholarship and meetings.
The union is also concerned about how "contribution points" - a form of performance-related pay - will operate. It is keen to ensure that the extra money is available to as many staff as possible.
Natfhe's executive was due to make a final decision on whether or not to recommend the deal to its members on Friday.
Employers said they are confident that there would be a positive result despite the late "brinkmanship" by Natfhe.
After strike action last week, dismissed as "patchy" by employers, the AUT began an assessment boycott this week.
As The Times Higher went to press, the AUT's action had earned the backing of 15 MPs, who signed an early day motion posted last week.
- Students who want to get their work assessed during the AUT boycott should send it to their vice-chancellor for marking, according to Rami Okasha, president of the National Union of Students Scotland.
Mr Okasha, speaking at the Association of University Teachers Scotland council meeting in Dundee, said students understood and supported the boycott and that the solution was for the employers to talk to the people they employed.
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