TENS OF thousands of university lecturers are to strike over pay across Britain and Northern Ireland next week. On Wednesday 47,000 lecturers belonging to the AUT union in the 'old' universities, those which were never polytechnics, will be out. In addition to Wednesday's strike, lecturers in Wales will also strike on Monday, in England on Tuesday, in Scotland on Thursday and in Northern Ireland on Friday.
Many colleges could be shut down, as the lecturers' Wednesday strike coincides with a student day of action over the government's top-up fees. The AUT has rejected a complex pay deal, and backed strikes by a two to one majority in a ballot.
The proposed deal could see experienced staff lose up to £14,000 a year over the next five years, and newer staff up to £10,000 a year. This comes on top of lecturers seeing their relative pay decline over the last 15 years.
Regional demonstrations are planned, and in some areas student unions are calling on their members to walk out on Wednesday and join AUT members on picket lines. The same vice-chancellors who run the universities and are out to impose pay cuts on their staff also want higher fees for students. After next week's strikes AUT members plan more action from 1 March.
That will include a boycott of student assessment and examinations, staff appraisal and job evaluation, and a refusal to cover for absent colleagues. Activists in the AUT need to campaign for maximum involvement in next week's picket lines and use this to get the campaign off to a good start. This needs to be followed up by departmental meetings in order to gain the maximum involvement in the assessment boycott.
Activists should also argue for more strikes to build up the pressure on the employers.