Lecturers are to demand a 13 per cent pay rise in the first joint pay claim from the Association of University Teachers and rival union Natfhe.
The effort, which was expected to be discussed at the AUT's annual winter council this week, raises the prospect of the first joint industrial action for six years if employers fail to meet the demand by August.
The AUT and Natfhe represent 62,000 academics. They say 13 per cent is needed to prevent a recruitment and retention crisis, which would stop universities from achieving the government's target of 50 per cent participation by 2010.
The claim also demanded:
- A minimum starting salary of £24,000
- A professorial minimum of £42,000
- Hourly paid rates to increase by the same average as full-time salaries
- Action to close the gender pay gap.
The unions are negotiating whether to include a number of less direct demands on pay and conditions. They are likely to seek the transfer of at least 75 per cent of fixed-term contract staff to permanent contracts by 2005-06 and the voluntary move of hourly paid staff to permanent fractional contracts.
AUT members were expected to endorse the pay claim and the union's campaign strategy. But the joint claim must also be approved by Natfhe, in a special meeting in March, and by the Educational Institute of Scotland, following the establishment of the national negotiating committee last year.
A motion from the AUT's Liverpool association, which the executive hoped to have withdrawn, called for the AUT to pull out of negotiations with employers if they did not offer at least 10 per cent for 2002-03.
The motion said that all unions should agree a clear strategy to ensure the pay claim was successful and that plans "must include consideration of the timing of a ballot for industrial action if necessary, so that any strike action or action short of a strike can be taken at a time that is most disruptive".
The council has been closed to media as the AUT embarks on a review of its role and strategy after the departure of general secretary David Triesman.
Council motions include:
- A call from the Liverpool association, opposed by the executive, to withdraw AUT members from "positions of responsibility within the Institute for Learning and Teaching". The meeting will discuss the AUT's tentative plans to set up its own professional accreditation body to rival the ILT, following consultation that found little enthusiasm
- A call, again from Liverpool but approved by the executive, condemning the "introduction of performance-related pay by the back door", following moves by institutions to set up local schemes with their share of the £330 million allocated by ministers to help with recruitment and retention.