Strike threats issued

May 16, 1997

Lecturers' unions want a new deal from New Labour. THES reporters look forward to turbulent conferences and ask four academics why they will not join a union

LECTURERS have delivered an ultimatum to the new Labour Government this week, pledging loyalty only in return for commitments over jobs and pay.

The Association of University Teachers and lecturers' union Natfhe warn that strikes are likely if the Government fails to meet their demands. They know that large-scale industrial action would tarnish Tony Blair's "education, education and education" pledge.

Union leaders welcome Labour's election victory. But they say that ordinary members have been pushed to the limit by widespread redundancies and the lack of action to redress the wide gap between their salaries and the pay of comparable professions.

AUT general secretary David Triesman said: "If we receive the right response then the Government will find us fierce allies; if not then we will not be so pleasant. We are prepared to provide more of the highest quality service, but not on a bread and dripping diet."

Motions on redundancies and pay were put forward for the AUT annual council which began in Scarborough on Wednesday. One amendment instructs the executive to prepare for further industrial action in the event that no independent pay review body is introduced and the 1998/99 pay settlement is unsatisfactory.

Another executive motion condemns senior managers in some universities for resorting to victimisation and redundancy threats in response to funding cuts. It says that it is improper for institutions to justify cutting staff on the basis of a fall in research income.

Natfhe's annual conference begins next Saturday, also in Scarborough. Delegates are likely to adopt a similar no-nonsense approach. The key issue will be the Pounds 100 million slashed from further education colleges next year. Delegates will also discuss redundancies, the use of supply lecturers, quality and standards in teacher education and job evaluation.

* LECTURERS will continue to have their pay negotiated nationally after vice chancellors decided to keep their controversial bargaining body.

The Committee of Vice Chancellors' council recommended last Friday that the Universities and Colleges Employers Association retains its national bargaining role. The UCEA was criticised for its handling of the recent pay dispute, specifically that it failed to communicate effectively with the CVCP.

UCEA chief executive Steve Rouse is due to retire in July and the association's board has been instructed to advertise the post soon.

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