The UCU union held a special pay conference last Saturday for lecturers and researchers in universities. Delegates voted overwhelmingly to prepare for a major pay battle in 2009.
Various pay claims were discussed, but the highest won through by a large majority. It is a claim for 5 percent above the Retail Price Index (RPI) rate of inflation. The resolution included the safeguard that if RPI is less than 3 percent, the minimum claim should be for 8 percent.
The reason for this is that university pay has fallen behind over many years.
The last pay struggle was an attempt to catch up lost ground, and delegates pushed to continue this catch-up strategy.
The most important aspect of the conference was the political debate about the economic crisis. Socialists at the conference realised that there had to be a high-level political discussion to overcome confusion.
The conference was determined to maintain bottom-up control of the pay struggle ahead.
This included electing negotiators at the conference, and discussing strategy. This would include strikes and other kinds of disruptive action.
The executive was instructed to use all means to stimulate debate about the recession as part of the mobilisation over pay.