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Higher education staff strike for better pay

Lecturers, academics, researchers and support staff from AUT and NATFHE unions staged a one day strike on March 7th. This national day of action also marked the start of an indefinite "action short of a strike" including boycotts of assessments, appraisals and staff cover.The action had been supported by students from the NUS as well.

Universities and colleges across the country had lectures cancelled and many universities saw good levels of attendance among unionised members. The best turnout was reported in some of the Scottish universities where almost all lectures were cancelled and most students didn't cross the picket lines either.

The unions state that the dispute originates from unfulfilled pay and conditions promises. For years university staff salaries have lagged behind in fact dropping in real terms for about 40% in the past 20 years. As one remedy to this situation politicians and bosses introduced highly controversial student top-up fees.

Former Higher Education minister Alan Jonson said in the House of Commons in April 2004 that at least third of the money collected from top-up fees will be used for salaries. Perhaps they meant the salaries of the vice chancellors, who have seen their income soar by 30%, because the staff have only seen increases barely meeting inflation rates.

Bosses seem to have forgotten their earlier claims as well. Dr Geoffrey
Copland, Chairman of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association said in May 2005 that "employers have repeatedly made clear that they want to see more money spent on staff, whenever funding allows." Now funding is there, but the will to pay the staff suddenly disappeared.

"Workers voted for the strike action for many reasons", said one striking comrade from Solidarity Federation's Education Workers Network (EWN) from University of Manchester. "The discontent runs much deeper than just pay issues. Universities are facing further commercialisation, privatisation, outsourcing and casualisation of staff. The whole direction of where education is going got over 65% of the staff to vote for strike action, and many more for the action short of a strike".

EWN do not only want to have a bigger slice of the stolen cake, but demand the end of top-up fees which they see as a way to block access to education for many working class students. EWN also argues for the workers to unite in their demands rather than dividing themselves into smaller unions based on craft rather than industry.

If you work in education or are a student, and are interested in Education Workers Network, please contact your nearest Solidarity Federation local.

Lecturers, academics, researchers and support staff from AUT and NATFHE unions staged a one day strike on March 7th. This national day of action also marked the start of an indefinite "action short of a strike" including boycotts of assessments, appraisals and staff cover.The action had been supported by students from the NUS as well.

Universities and colleges across the country had lectures cancelled and many universities saw good levels of attendance among unionised members. The best turnout was reported in some of the Scottish universities where almost all lectures were cancelled and most students didn't cross the picket lines either.

The unions state that the dispute originates from unfulfilled pay and conditions promises. For years university staff salaries have lagged behind in fact dropping in real terms for about 40% in the past 20 years. As one remedy to this situation politicians and bosses introduced highly controversial student top-up fees.

Former Higher Education minister Alan Jonson said in the House of Commons in April 2004 that at least third of the money collected from top-up fees will be used for salaries. Perhaps they meant the salaries of the vice chancellors, who have seen their income soar by 30%, because the staff have only seen increases barely meeting inflation rates.

Bosses seem to have forgotten their earlier claims as well. Dr Geoffrey Copland, Chairman of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association said in May 2005 that "employers have repeatedly made clear that they want to see more money spent on staff, whenever funding allows." Now funding is there, but the will to pay the staff suddenly disappeared.

"Workers voted for the strike action for many reasons", said one striking comrade from Solidarity Federation's Education Workers Network (EWN) from University of Manchester. "The discontent runs much deeper than just pay issues. Universities are facing further commercialisation, privatisation, outsourcing and casualisation of staff. The whole direction of where education is going got over 65% of the staff to vote for strike action, and many more for the action short of a strike".

EWN do not only want to have a bigger slice of the stolen cake, but demand the end of top-up fees which they see as a way to block access to education for many working class students. EWN also argues for the workers to unite in their demands rather than dividing themselves into smaller unions based on craft rather than industry.

If you work in education or are a student, and are interested in Education Workers Network, please contact your nearest Solidarity Federation local.

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