Pay protest aims to hit pupils

August 6, 1999

The Association of University Teachers Scotland this week pressed the Scottish Parliament's enterprise and lifelong learning committee to investigate the academic pay crisis behind next week's industrial action.

The move came as AUT and AUTS members prepared to disrupt the admissions process for university applicants holding Scottish Highers.

Scottish pupils received their higher examination results today. Members are being asked not to take any inquiries from students on Monday or Tuesday on admissions to courses. Further disruption is planned for the A-level results due the week after.

David Bleiman, Scottish official of the AUT, said: "We bitterly regret that we have to add to the pressures on school-leavers and parents because we have not yet found a way of resolving our members' concerns about the scandalous underpayment of university professional staff."

The AUTS says it does not expect the Scottish executive or enterprise and lifelong learning committee to be able to intervene directly in the 1999 pay negotiations. But it wants the committee to investigate the background to the present crisis and to look at the union's proposals for an independent pay-review body.

Two MSPs have already tabled a motion giving support for a pay review. Academics have been offered, and have rejected, a 3.5 per cent offer.

Richard Baker, president of the National Union of Students Scotland, said that admissions services were being hit. He said: "We continue to support the teaching unions in this dispute and want to see a resolution to the crisis in pay. Prospective students should not panic because, although they may be inconvenienced, they should not be disadvantaged as it will impact on all students equally."

The universities are stressing that admissions are dealt with largely by administrative staff who are not AUT members, but senior managers at Strathclyde University are being co-opted to help deal with the boycott.

A Strathclyde spokeswoman said: "It's going to be a stretch but the hotlines will be manned and students will not be left hanging.

"Administrative staff take a lot of the calls, but in some cases members of the university senior management team will be doing their bit to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible."

A Glasgow University spokeswoman said the university normally had about 1,000 calls in the two days following the Highers results.

She said: "The university will ensure that all admissions inquiries are deal with promptly,

courteously and accurately. The university would not expect disruption to the normal timetable in dealing with admissions inquiries."

An Edinburgh University spokeswoman said: "It's really quite a low proportion of our annual intake that comes in through clearing, 5 per cent to 7 per cent.

"We are making preparations to ensure that our communications to prospective students will continue as usual."

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