MEMBERS OF the Association of University Teachers (AUT) in 12 London universities voted last week to support further strike action in their London weighting campaign. The AUT is the main lecturers' union in the old universities. The vote came despite a low-key summer campaign and the union leadership calling off action earlier in the year. In most colleges at least two thirds voted for further action, which surprised the AUT leadership. The results also gave a boost to Unison union members, who have taken five days of strike action over London weighting so far this year.
Unions are planning two days of joint strikes at the end of September and start of October, timed to disrupt the enrolment of students. This is a significant escalation of the strikes so far. Solid picketing will be essential. 'We've been sending out a call to arms to all union activists since we heard the ballot result,' said Sean Wallis from University College London. 'Every trade unionist needs to be activated to win the arguments.'
Activists across the sector are beginning to realise that they need to be more organised at the rank and file level. Members of Unison and AUT are getting together to launch a new rank and file bulletin in time for the upcoming strike days. The vote shows the depth of the anger and frustration of staff over London weighting. Staff in the old universities get a £2,134 London weighting, frozen since 1992.
At King's College London management are so concerned about the impending strike that they have more than doubled their initial derisory offer of a £100 increase. Though it is still pitifully low, the offer does show that the employers are beginning to crack. The only way forward is to strike together and to settle together.