Socialist Worker

Make or break for lecturers' dispute

by Kelly Hilditch
Issue No. 2004

About 500 lecturers, teachers and supporters marched through London on Thursday of last week as part of the university lecturers’ campaign over pay. Dr And Rosta, acting branch secretary of UCU at the University of Central Lancashire, was on a delegation

About 500 lecturers, teachers and supporters marched through London on Thursday of last week as part of the university lecturers’ campaign over pay. Dr And Rosta, acting branch secretary of UCU at the University of Central Lancashire, was on a delegation


As Socialist Worker went to press there were signs that university employers were about to offer lecturers a “new” pay deal of 13.12 percent over three years.

This would mean that the pay offer is virtually unchanged from an offer of 13.11 percent already rejected on 30 May.

It falls far short of the 23 percent that lecturers’ unions say they need to catch up with those in similar professions. The recent Natfhe lecturers’ union conference voted that offers under 15 percent should not even be considered for acceptance.

According to a draft seen by Socialist Worker, the only change from the previous offer is a clause allowing negotiations to be reopened over the rates of pay in the third year.

However, even this clause stipulates that there has to be proof that the money is there to fund an increase and it relies on lecturers retrospectively negotiating this the following year.

The new offer would not compel any employer to return money lost through pay docked during the dispute. This is a fundamental problem as university managers are increasingly using pay docking as a way to try to break the action.

If the offer were put to members, it would be on the condition of an immediate halt of all action.

Choice

The danger is that union leaders will put this bad offer out to ballot. Having resumed examinations and assessment, and handed over marks, some lecturers may feel they have no choice but to accept the deal.

Tom Hickey is a member of the national executive of UCU, the new lecturers’ union formed on Thursday of last week by a merger of Natfhe and the AUT.

Speaking in a personal capcity, he said, “This is a dreadful deal. If the leadership of UCU recommend such a deal to the members then they will have lost their nerve in the face of the first major challenge to the new union.

“If they do recommend a deal then all of the staff who have been sustaining the action, who have dealt with the enormous pressure of not marking, will have been marched all the way to the top of the hill only to be sold out.

“It is not necessary to make a quick deal. All indications are that the action is holding solid.

“Lecturers aren’t happy about having to take this action, but they are determined not to lose. And where staff have faced pay docking and lockouts it has hardened their resolve.

“There is no reason to pull this dispute. Yes it would mean maintaining the action over the summer and escalating next term, but members are already talking about how to keep the action going and how to deal with the financial implications. They are not ready to give in.

“There has been a lot of noise about the notion that if a deal is not made soon it will lead to a breakdown in national bargaining. I just don’t think this is the case.

“Only a few universities want local deals, and UCU will take a strong position against local pay deals.

“An attempt to push through local deals would lead to local action.

“If this deal is put to the membership it will be quite staggering.

“Both parts of UCU, the former AUT and Natfhe unions have clear policy from their conferences and consultations not to put an offer to the membership unless it comes close to the 23 percent we are fighting for.

“UCU Left members are calling for associations and branches to hold meetings to condemn the offer and to demand that such a shoddy deal be rejected and not put out to ballot.”

Mark Campbell, UCU branch secretary at London Metropolitan University, told Socialist Worker, “After the tremendous levels of action across universities, people feel that they can win more than this.

“The experience of lecturers at London Met, where we were in dispute for 16 months in 2004-5, shows that if you keep your nerve you can win.

“We have to be clear that this is not an argument between the former AUT and Natfhe factions within UCU, but an argument between the left and right in the new union.

“When you have Gordon Brown talking about holding back public sector pay, and localised pay deals then you have to see that this fight is far wider than us. It is about how people are treated across the board.”

Two weeks ago university employers informally proposed a pay deal over two years with a no strike clause for the third year.

There is a danger that they now try to package a new offer in this way.

Malcolm Povey, a lecturer from Leeds, said, “Higher education employers are on the offensive in all areas – not just over pay – so agreeing a no strike deal would be a huge tactical blunder by the union.

“Despite their rhetoric, university managers can afford to pay the union’s claim – it is the priorities in education that are at stake in this dispute.

“If this new offer from the employers is tabled this week UCU members need to lobby their reps to reject it.

“And if the deal is put out to ballot, we need to organise a vibrant rank and file campaign for a no vote.”

Lecturers have been taking action for three months and the action is having a big impact across Britain.

Now is not the time for union leaders to accept a deal that falls so far short of what lecturers have been fighting for.

education is not for sale

Conference to organise a new left in a new democratic fighting union

SATURDAY 24 JUNE 2006

speakers include: Tony Benn, Danielle Obone, Steven Rose, Gargi Bhattacharya, Alex Callinicos, Elizabeth Lawrence, Paul Russell, Tom Hickey, Elizabeth Lawrence, Malcolm Povey, Andrew Price, Sami Ramadani

For more details go to: www.uculeft.org


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Sat 10 Jun 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2004
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