by Sofie Buckland, National Union of Students executive member-EleCt
LECTURERS’ unions AUT and NATFHE are continuing their dispute over pay, demanding a decent national pay offer despite attempts by university bosses to defuse the dispute through local deals and drawn out national negotiations.
AUT members at St Andrews and Aberdeen Universities, the two institutions where the employers have made a local offer significantly more generous than what the University and Colleges Employers' Association was then offering nationally, have rejected the deal and demanded a national settlement (12.5% over three years as against 6% over two years). This quickly resulted in an improved offer from UCEA.
Nonetheless, the AUT and NATFHE agree that the 12.6% over three years now being offered nationally is a long way short of adequate (not least since the staging means that represents more like 10.5% in real terms).
The unions are right to stand firm regardless of the large amount of pressure being placed on them; if the university bosses are digging in to win the dispute, so should university workers.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Students has continued its slide into scabbing by shifting the balance of its supposedly pro-union position to "demanding" that the AUT abandons its assessment boycott and
sets exams, even sending a delegation to AUT Council in Scarborough to voice this demand. (So we can’t have a demo against top-up fees this year, but we are having a demo against the AUT!) It has also called for new Secretary of State for Education Alan Johnson to “intervene” in the dispute to bring it to a close - something which, in the context of NUS's anti-boycott propaganda, can only be interpreted as a call for the government to strong-arm the AUT and NATFHE into giving in.
Despite the hysteria of a large right-wing minority, many students continue to support their lecturers' fight for decent pay. The AUT should continue its boycott until UCEA makes a decent pay offer, and the left should continue its solidarity.