UNIVERSITIES face renewed industrial action unless employers improve their pay offer for next year, higher education unions have warned.
Further talks were under way this week after the unions condemned the staged 3.8 per cent offered last week by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association. Senior union sources said that employer intransigence could lead to ballots for action. Winter 1996-97 saw a successful pay campaign by all eight unions.
Spokesmen for the unions said that the offer, providing 2 per cent for the first eight months and then 1.8 per cent for the remaining four, represented a real-terms pay cut. They said that the staged offer was only worth 2.6 per cent across the year, which is less than the 3.4 per cent inflation rate announced by the government last week.
David Triesman, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, which represents more than 40,000 academic and related staff, said: "Employers have watched while their staff have borne the brunt of the expansion in higher education through lower pay and increased workloads. The route out of this mire is to campaign single-mindedly for a statutory pay-review system."
The unions are hopeful that UCEA will agree to rephase the offer with more of the increase coming earlier in the year. However, renewed pay talks, expected today, could be affected by a row over UCEA's decision to release the offer on the internet last Thursday afternoon before the formal negotiation's were complete and the offer made officially.
Lecturers' union Natfhe and Unison, which has some of the lowest paid higher education employees among its 60,000 members, also deplored the employers' failure to make any progress on harmonising pay and conditions for all staff.
A spokesman for UCEA said: "We are disappointed the unions see the offer this way." He said that UCEA would continue negotiations in an attempt to reach a settlement.