Pay fight threatens Labour proposal

May 28, 1999

Leaks of the imminent Bett report on university pay galvanise teachers' unions

Lecturers are prepared to sink the government's plans to widen participation in higher education unless they get more pay.

Both the Association of University Teachers and lecturers' union Natfhe say they are prepared to go all the way to secure better pay, even if future industrial action undermines the government's plans for an extra 100,000 higher education places by 2002.

The unions say it is likely that they will join forces to campaign for full implementation of the Bett recommendations on pay. They say that, in the absence of sufficient existing funds within the sector, the government must fully fund Bett's anticipated recommendation of a 3 per cent real-terms pay rise in each of the next three years.

AUT general secretary David Triesman, who spoke at a rally in London marking the union's one-day strike on Tuesday, said that the real-terms fall in the value of lecturers' pay over the last few years was almost equal to the amount the government had pumped into expanding higher education participation.

He said: "If there is one message government should take from today it is that lecturers paid for the last expansion but we are not going to pay for the next. If they think they can have their expansion just by picking our pockets then they'd better think again."

The AUT was on strike over perceived intransigence by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, which is offering lecturers a 3.5 per cent pay rise next year. The union had asked for a 10 per cent rise and has rejected the UCEA offer. Further disruption, short of strike action, is planned throughout the summer and will target exam marking and other administrative processes. Natfhe has just started its pay bargaining process but is likely to be offered the same percentage rise.

Natfhe general secretary Paul Mackney told the rally: "We have told employers that if Natfhe is offered 3.5 per cent then we will reject it and move to industrial action alongside colleagues in the AUT. Natfhe and the AUT are standing side by side and the publication of Bett will bring the two unions even closer together."

Publication of the widely leaked Bett report has been delayed until next month. It will cost about Pounds 450 million to fund the 9 per cent pay rise for academic staff and the average 8 per cent for non-academic staff. It also calls for fair pay for women employees. Both the AUT and Natfhe say that equal pay is a priority.

Mr Mackney said: "It is an indictment of institutions which are meant to be places of excellence for employment practices to show some of the worst discrimination against women anywhere in the British economy."

Union leaders also rounded on the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Princpals and its highly paid, "fat cat" members. Mr Triesman said: "When the vice-chancellors go to see the government about extra money they are thorough wimps. When they come to see us they are the playground bully."

* Natfhe has launched its campaign for a Bett-style independent review of further education lecturers' pay. Preliminary findings of a Natfhe survey on pay show that college lecturers are 7 per cent behind school teachers on average. Only half of colleges met this year's recommended pay increase and a sixth of colleges have imposed a pay freeze. Natfhe puts the average college lecturer's salary at Pounds 18,000. The full survey is expected later this year.

Letters, page 17

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