Lecturers' union leader David Triesman launched a three-pronged attack on employers today as the two sides began the battle over pay in earnest.
Mr Triesman, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, has said he will reject the 1.5 per cent being offered by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association at today's official pay negotiations.
First, he said that members wanted an assurance that the UCEA had not adopted a "cynical" role given that the 1.5 per cent offer followed a long, and fruitless, delay during which further information on higher education funding was sought unsuccessfully.
Second, Mr Triesman said, the 1.5 per cent offer was derisory when the Committee for Vice Chancellors and Principals had just announced that the higher education sector was now worth more than Pounds 10 billion, due in large part to the efforts of staff.
Third, he said that if the UCEA tried to justify the offer on the grounds that this and 1996-97 are financially tough years for the sector he would reluctantly make an issue of the 5.5 per cent average pay rises for vice chancellors.
Mr Triesman said that there would be no call for any industrial action this term but that he would be approaching members in the autumn. He hinted that the union may consider flexing its muscles in the event of a renewed call for growth in student numbers.
The UCEA says that, while it agrees that lecturers should have more money, there is simply insufficient cash available. The Manufacturing, Science and Finance union has also rejected the 1.5 per cent offer.