by Sofie Buckland, Cambridge University
On March 7, members of the lecturers’ unions NATFHE and AUT will strike for one day as the start of an ongoing campaign to demand a decent pay offer from university employers. Both unions will begin a national boycott of assessments, exam and coursework from March 8.
The unions are demanding that a third of the new income from top-up fees be used to improve pay, a demand which is supported by non-teaching unions on campus. This amounts to a 23% increase over three years – a very moderate demand when you consider that even Tony Blair admits that lecturers’ salaries “have shown practically no increase in real terms over two decades”.
The bosses’ University and Colleges Employment Association total failure to respond to the pay claim triggered the action.
It is vital that, in addition to other unions, student unions and activists support NATFHE and the AUT. Following the National Union of Students’ failure to issue a clear statement in support of the boycott, some right-wing student unions have made public expressions of hostility to any action that “disrupts” students.
This is a total failure of solidarity, and is no way to repay our lecturers’ unions clear opposition to top-up fees. Any action which is strong enough to win the pay claim will cause disruption, but we should lay the blame squarely at the door of the university authorities and the government, who have provoked this dispute by failing to even make a pay offer
AUT and NATFHE are fighting not just for higher pay but for a quality education system for us all. It is absolutely crucial that activists get down to picket lines and rallies and that student unions make their support for both the strike and the boycott clear.