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Last Updated: Friday, 17 February 2006, 16:59 GMT
Academics vote for strike action
students in lecture hall
Lecturers say universities can afford to raise wages
Thousands of lecturers and other academics in higher education in the UK have voted in favour of strike action in a row over pay.

Two unions are expected to set a date for a walkout in the next few days.

Their leaders warn that millions of students could be affected by the action and that exams could be thrown into chaos.

The university employers say they want to talk to the unions - provided plans for strikes are "put on ice".

The Association of University Teachers and Natfhe are backing a strike campaign unless the pay dispute is resolved.

They claim academic pay has fallen by 40% over the past 20 years and that employers could increase wages because of extra money from the government and from top-up fees.

A total of 64% of AUT members and 70% of Natfhe members who took part in the poll voted in favour of action. The turnout for the AUT was 51% and for Natfhe was 47%.

Natfhe general secretary Paul Mackney said: "This is a strong mandate for action and shows the level of dissatisfaction throughout higher education.

"Employers must respond immediately with an offer - not talks about talks - if they are to prevent disruption."

'On ice'

AUT general secretary Sally Hunt said university staff had run out of patience.

"For too long they have had to accept the tired old excuses from vice-chancellors of wanting to pay more, but not having the money. That money is here now," she said.

University employers say they want to negotiate with the AUT and Natfhe - if the unions put on ice their plans for industrial action.

Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of UCEA, which represents higher education employers in pay negotiations, said: "UCEA hopes that Natfhe and AUT will now put any industrial action on hold and seek to engage in constructive dialogue alongside the other unions.

"Their determination to disrupt students' education is a major concern. Universities will seek to minimise the impact on students, but some could be adversely affected - quite unnecessarily."

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