Thes reporters look at the increased pressure for improved childcare in universities.
Public service union Unison is taking Oxford Brookes University to an industrial tribunal as part of its campaign to remove barriers to equal pay in higher education.
The case involves 12 nursery staff who claim they work a 39-hour week compared with 37 hours for most other white collar staff and that they earn up to Pounds 1,500 a year less than men doing work of equal value.
Ann Black, Unison convenor at Oxford Brookes, said the university failed to respond to attempts to negotiate a settlement. "Our members have been very patient but the university cannot ignore the staff and their claim just because this is seen as traditional women's work," she said.
Deputy vice chancellor Brian Summers said he did not believe it had been clearly demonstrated that the university had breached equal pay legislation but added: "We will be looking carefully at the comparisons cited by Unison. Our lines of communication and relationships with Unison are very good and no doubt we will be talking further with them about this claim."
He said the university considered the introduction of a job evaluation scheme covering all non-teaching staff as a high priority despite its significant cost at a time of a continuing squeeze on resources.
The Unison campaign aims to remove barriers to equal pay caused by the complex grading structure in higher education. There are nine bargaining groups across the old and new university sector covering manual, clerical, technical, administrative, professional and academic and related staff. Unison argues that different scales in each group obstruct equal pay for work of equal value.
Other unions support the rationalisation of bargaining structures but oppose Unison's aim to create a single table bargaining system where all the unions would negotiate with employers in one group.