University lecturers and academic staff have voted overwhelmingly for strike action over pay. The first strike is set for Tuesday 7 March.
Members of the AUT and Natfhe unions have also backed action short of a strike. A full marking boycott is set to take place from Wednesday 8 March.
Academic pay has declined by 40 percent in real terms over the past 20 years. Both lecturers’ unions, which are to merge later this year, are arguing for pay to be brought into line with equivalent professionals.
University bosses have refused either to campaign for increased resources or to use what extra funding the government has provided to improve pay.
At the start of this week they had not made the unions any pay offer, despite having five months in which to do so.
Some 64 percent of AUT members in the “old” (pre-1992) universities voted for strike action and 81 percent voted for action short of a strike.
In Natfhe, which covers lecturers in the “new” universities, 70 percent voted for strikes and 87 percent for action short of a strike.
Natfhe general secretary Paul Mackney said, “This is a strong mandate for action and shows the level of dissatisfaction throughout higher education.
“Employers must respond immediately with an offer – not talks about talks – if they are to prevent disruption.”
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the AUT, added, “For too long they have had to accept the tired old excuses from vice-chancellors of wanting to pay more, but not having the money. That money is here now.”
Some of that money has come from the introduction of top-up fees for students, which both teaching unions opposed. Activists in Natfhe and the AUT are determined that that opposition is stated loudly in the course of this dispute.