Pay strike delays class of '95

July 7, 1995

A strike by university lecturers and researchers in Portugal has disrupted entry exams for state higher education over the past week.

The strike, which ended today, was in support of a union call for a 26 per cent salary rise and the introduction of a career and pay structure on a par with doctors and teachers.

Some 200,000 candidates were scheduled to sit the entry exams, which together with interviews and results from general year 12 exams sat in schools, determine who goes to university.

Education minister Manuela Ferreira Leite has accused the four unions involved in the protest of blackmail and playing with students' chances of access to higher education. No money was earmarked in this year's budget for a pay rise, she said. The unions wanted a rise backdated to July 1, meaning half would fall within this financial year.

By acceding to the demands "maybe I'll win 200,000 votes but it would show a complete lack of political ethics". Ms Ferreira indicated she would be willing to consider proposals from the unions for January 1996. But unless serious negotiations with the education ministry start, the unions are threatening a further two-week strike starting on July 13 when most of the exams are in full swing.

Key to the conflict is the restructuring of teaching and research staff grades and pay scales set in 1989 when the traditional link with school teaching was broken.

The shift brought in a variety of anomolies whereby people moved up a grade but earned less and some assistant lecturers studying for masters actually earned more than the person supervising them.

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