Unions flex muscle for all-out war

November 4, 2005

Academic trade union leaders are set to declare an industrial dispute on the day that plans for a new, merged "superunion" are due to be given the official go-ahead, writes Phil Baty.

Both the Association of University Teachers and lecturers' union Natfhe this week confirmed that they will declare the results of their merger ballots on December 2 - the day they plan to declare a dispute over the 2006 pay claim.

The timing of the announcements is being described as the ultimate opening salvo in a pay campaign that is expected to be one of the most militant ever seen.

The unions jointly published a full-page advert in this week's Times Higher warning employers: "It's time to honour your promises on pay." The advert claims that universities will gain an extra £3.5 billion by 2009 after top-up fees are introduced next year. The unions have given the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association until December 2 to confirm that a third of that amount will be spent on pay, as was indicated by Alan Johnson, the former Higher Education Minister.

Ucea said this week that it had agreed to meet the unions to discuss investment in staff before December 2. It said that Universities UK president Drummond Bone had indicated in Parliament last week that many institutions had committed resources to staffing, including pension provision, expanding staff numbers and modernising pay structures.

"The amounts that individual institutions will have available for pay are likely to vary significantly," Ucea said.

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