The Socialist Unity Network

University lecturers strike report

Nick Savage, branch sec. Cambridge University AUT

AUT and The current Industrial Dispute in Higher Education

In January and February, AUT members, who include lecturers, researchers, administrators, librarians, computer staff and postgraduate tutors, voted on industrial action.

66.65% voted for strike action and 81.2% voted to take action short of a strike.

The turnout, in the postal ballot which began on 13 January, was an unprecedented 54.76%.
The decision to hold an industrial action ballot was made after the higher education employers' body, UCEA, dramatically called off last-ditch talks after having failed to negotiate seriously over the AUT's concerns about the pay and conditions offer made in July 2003.

AUT members are angry at new pay structures that -  because of smaller annual increments - would lead to many lecturers loosing 6,000 over eight years, researchers losing 17,000 over nine years and senior support staff losing 47,000 over 21 years.

University staff have lost 40% in comparison to the rest of the workforce during the last two decades and these proposals will make that situation worse. AUT also believes that the employers' proposals to ditch
national bargaining and replace it with under-regulated localised negotiations will make the pay situation worse for many. It would also lead to a situation where staff would be paid according to where they work, not what they do and there is evidence that where there is local pay the pay gap between men and women is larger.

The week of industrial action from 23-27th February which was co-ordinated with action by NUS against top up fees was a great success. Many university campuses were shut down and there were rallies in several major cities. The action is now continuing with a boycott of all student assessment. This will mean lecturers refusing to set or mark essays and exams and could mean delays in students being awarded their degrees.

It also worth noting that over 1,800 people have joined AUT since the ballot for industrial action opened in


March 2004