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University staff strike for pay
THOUSANDS OF university staff, members of AUT and NATFHE, took strike action on 7 March over pay. Dale Beale, Press Officer for AUT (University of Manchester branch), spoke to the socialist:
"What triggered this dispute is that two years ago there was a statement by Alan Johnson, the then Minister for Higher Education, that £5 billion would be pumped into the sector. £3 billion of this was to come from general taxation, not related to top-up fees. The two university lecturers' unions have been fighting hard over the last five months to persuade the employers to actually negotiate seriously and come up with an offer. Nothing has been put on the table.
"Starting tomorrow there's a boycott of all assessment activity. That does then raise wider questions of whether that boycott will be enough to win the dispute. The executives of both lecturers' unions have a clear mandate for strike action and for other industrial action. So there is the potential to take further strike action, although that decision has not yet been made."
"Both lecturers' unions have had a strong campaign against top-up fees and that in principle is our position. There's certainly a need for a broad-based campaign linking the lecturers' demands with those of the students, and also with those of manual and administrative staff in the university sector who are quite abysmally paid."
Dale is also a signatory to the Campaign for a New Workers' Party. Speaking in a personal capacity, Dave added:
"I think it's definitely the case that this dispute puts forward the need for a new workers' party. In the past we've had many of our members who've voted Labour, and there's a good indication that many of those members switched their allegiance (albeit tactically) to the Liberal Democrats. But as we've seen the statements of intent from the Lib Dems in the last few days, to privatise Royal Mail, I think that that interest in the Lib Dems by our members will collapse. That puts forward more strongly than ever the case for a new political party on the Left."
In The Socialist 9 March 2006:
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