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Last Updated: Monday, 23 February, 2004, 15:07 GMT
University week of protest begins
Picket at Bangor University
Pickets are at Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Swansea and Lampeter
Universities in Wales have been hit at the start of a week of strikes by academic staff in a dispute over pay and a new salary structure.

Members of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) have taken action at a number of campuses.

Members of the National Union of Students are also protesting about variable tuition fees for England.

The AUT's general secretary, Sally Hunt, told a small rally in Cardiff: "We have shut down Wales."

Picket lines

Both unions have criticised the "marketisation" of higher education.

During the week of joint action, staff and students will be on picket lines at university entrances in Wales on Monday, England on Tuesday, UK-wide on Wednesday, Scotland on Thursday and Northern Ireland on Friday.

The academics' union has rejected a pay rise of 3.44% this year and 3% next year.

It is also protesting against plans to end nationwide pay negotiations and change the grades of some staff.

On a picket line at Bangor University, AUT member Eileen Tully said: "The employers are introducing a national pay spine with a small pay rise, but in the long run it will mean losing out because it will be a smaller annual increment and we reckon that over a number of years people will actually lose money."

The AUT, which represents staff in the "old", pre-1992 universities, called for a strike after members voted in favour by two-to-one in a postal ballot.

Sally Hunt said in Cardiff: "We have shown that higher education staff care about themselves, about their students and care enough about the future of this country to take a stand here today and throughout the week to say to the government and employers 'enough is enough'."

Members also dispute plans to end nationwide pay negotiations

She said academic and related pay had fallen by 40% in comparison to the rest of the workforce during the last two decades, something her hard-working members would no longer accept.

The Universities and Colleges Employers' Association has called the action "regrettable".

Its chief executive, Jocelyn Prudence, said the AUT was the only one of seven higher education unions to have rejected the deal so far.

She said the pro-strike vote was by "a tiny minority".

"Fifty-three institutions were not balloted on strike action, and another 40 have a very low level of AUT membership, so talk of a sector-wide shut-down is unrealistic. Most universities and colleges will carry on pretty much as usual."

Of the AUTs' 47,000 members, 54.4% took part in a postal ballot: 66.6% backed strike action and 81.2%, action short of a strike.

College disruption

Further education college students also face disruption in the week ahead, as members of the Natfhe union hold a one-day strike over pay.

Lecturers at 12 colleges are scheduled to walk out on Thursday, over claims a pay package agreed last year has not been honoured at some institutions.

Barry Lovejoy, head of Natfhe's colleges department, said: "We intend to keep the pressure on until every college has honoured the national pay agreement in full."

The NUS has fought a long-running campaign against plans to increase university tuition fees.

MPs approved the government's plans by just five votes last month.

But students have promised to continue to oppose reforms with a programme of disruption at universities.




SEE ALSO:
Q&A: University pay
23 Feb 04  |  Education
'Why I will be on strike'
22 Feb 04  |  Education
Academics to hold strike over pay
12 Feb 04  |  Education
Lecturers offered new pay deal
21 Jul 03  |  Education


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