Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/443/5262
As the socialist went to press UCU leaders accepted a revised offer of 13.1% over three years, with 15.5% for non-academic staff.
They have suspended the action and will put the deal out to a ballot of the membership. More next week.
The following articles were published prior to the above developments
Natfhe: Final conference shows members' resolve to fight
NATFHE held its final conference as a trade union at the end of May. On 1 June it merged with AUT to form the University and College Union (UCU), representing nearly 120,000 workers employed in post-school education.
Among all at the conference there was a strong mood of optimism that the newly formed union could spearhead the fight to right the injustices faced by those working in both Further Education (FE) and the university sector (HE).
The pay dispute in the HE sector dominated the conference and there was a clear resolve to win the dispute. Conference instructed the negotiators not to put out to ballot any offer from the employers that failed to match up to the union side claim and to escalate the current programme of strike action as soon as possible.
The FE conference criticised the recent decision of the leadership to call off a two-day strike in pursuit of the long-established demand for pay parity between English FE lecturers and schoolteachers. As in HE conference, delegates voted for escalating strike action to finally resolve this dispute.
There was no comfort at this conference for anybody remotely sympathetic to New Labour. On the Saturday government minister Bill Rammell was howled down by angry delegates while trying to justify the policy of involving the private sector in funding post-school education. Later conference voted unanimously for Blair to go immediately.
A lively and well-attended meeting of the Campaign for a New Workers' Party was held on the fringe. In the election for NATFHE's share of the UCU delegation to the TUC, left wingers took five of the six places, including Andrew Price a Socialist Party member elected earlier to the UCU national executive.
University pay dispute at crucial stage
THE FORMATION of UCU was marked by hundreds marching in solidarity with the union through London and elsewhere.
Thomas House, Warwick UCU
The current action by the UCU started with a one-day strike in March, followed by 'action short of a strike' involving an assessment boycott. Now that exams have started, some students are facing papers set by unqualified staff and many more may not get their exam marks while the dispute continues.
This is entirely due to the intransigence of the employers' organisation UCEA, who met the unions' 23% pay claim with a derisory offer of 12.6% on 8 May, followed by the calculated insult of a further 0.5% in the days before the formation of the UCU.
Significant sections of students have already shown solidarity with the action. This unity between students and staff is vital, since the dispute is about much more than just pay. It is about whether universities will be run like private businesses with most teaching done by poorly paid and motivated lecturers while management cream off record salaries and implement whatever cuts and closures they like.
While some students have been taking their anger out on the unions, it is the job of socialists to build a united movement against the marketisation of our education, taking on both UCEA and the New Labour government.
Many universities are docking pay of union members taking part in the action, as well as attempting to employ scab markers - devaluing degrees in a desperate attempt to get students to graduate.
The employers want to break the UCU now to pave the way for future attacks on pay and conditions - even the universities pension scheme USS may not be safe in future!
National strike action by the UCU now is the best way to get a decent offer from UCEA quickly and ease the pressure on staff particularly exposed by the assessment boycott.
Building support for the lecturers
AT LEICESTER University, the student union (SU) sabbaticals persuaded the union council to oppose the lecturers' action short of a strike. The union president and vice president of education made it clear that they would help the university provide non-unionised and retired lecturers to mark work.
They also voted to support the university docking lecturers' pay by 20% and organised an anti-union demonstration on campus!
Despite this hostile atmosphere, Socialist Students members have been at the forefront in our support of the lecturers.
Our members submitted motions to union council to fully support the lecturers, which received the support of around a third of the meeting.
We've put up posters explaining why we should support our lecturers. Socialist Students and Respect held a 50-strong joint rally in support of the AUT last week.
The SU sabbatical officers held a picket outside with anti-AUT placards. During the discussion, the SU president made disgraceful comments, accusing the lecturers of not giving a damn about their students.
Out of this rally, some language students, with the support of Socialist Students, set up Campaign for Students' Information (CSI Leicester). They already had 50 signatures from students in their department and held a march to the vice chancellor's office.
More and more students are concluding that their SU does not represent their interests and is doing the vice chancellor's dirty work by dividing students and lecturers.
The SU executive have agreed to prevent any material being printed at the SU print shop in support of the UCU.
CSI Leicester is therefore demanding a democratic students' union and no to censorship. We also call for the university accounts to be made transparent, so we can see whether they really "can't afford" to give the lecturers a pay rise.
Our campaign is fully supported by UCU members on campus, who we have been working with. We have a target of 1,000 signatures by 10 June. We are determined to organise some sort of direct action before the semester ends if the dispute is not resolved in the lecturers' favour.
This dispute has radicalised many people. Lecturers, not known for their militancy, are furious at the way they have been treated by the bosses and the SU executive.
Socialist Students built the Know Your Rights At Work campaign last year, which we initiated together with Amicus. Trade union consciousness is growing among students. Ordinary students recognise that lecturers are not to blame in this dispute.
The vice chancellor stood against both lecturers and students in his support for tuition fees and top-up fees. If we are to secure decent pay for lecturers and step up the fight against fees and for a living grant for students, we need to stand together in unity.
Please send messages of support to: firstname.lastname@example.org
In The Socialist 8 June 2006: