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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 May 2006, 00:51 GMT 01:51 UK
Lecturers vote for all-out strike
student using PC
Students' work is not being marked
Academics at Northumbria University have voted to go on strike indefinitely, in a serious escalation of the higher education pay dispute.

The vote - at an "angry" and "determined" union meeting - was sparked by the university's decision to stop paying about a dozen staff.

They have not been marking students' work as part of national action by their union, Natfhe, and the AUT union.

Natfhe officials said the university seemed bent on breaking the union.

Branch chairman Martin Levy told BBC News that about 250 of his 630 members had attended the meeting on Friday.

He said other staff who have been boycotting the marking of students' work had also been sent letters saying their pay would be stopped, starting from different dates.

'Stormy applause'

A dozen staff in the law school passed their deadline first because of their refusal to submit marks to an exam board next week.

He said there was "stormy applause" for the staff in law who had "stood up to the university".

Never before has a university in the UK instigated a lock-out in any local or national dispute
Natfhe official Andy Pike

Asked what the mood had been, he said: "Very angry, very determined, very united."

He said formal notice of the proposed all-out strike would be served to the university management on Monday.

The start date had yet to be decided finally but was likely to be 23 May.

Northumbria University could not be contacted for comment.

Effect on students

"We have been inundated with messages of support from lecturers across the country horrified by the action taken by our management," Mr Levy said.

"Thousands of lecturers know that their union and their conditions of service are now at stake."

Natfhe national official Andy Pike said: "The actions of Northumbria University management are deplorable.

"Never before has a university in the UK instigated a lock-out in any local or national dispute."

He added: "This escalation by management may now jeopardise the prospects of thousands of students."

'Destructive impact'

Already students in some universities have been unable to take some exams because, as well as the marking boycott, members of the other main academic union, the AUT, are refusing to set exams.

Aberystwyth University, which has been hit hard because it is thought to have more members of the AUT, announced on Friday that it was cancelling 23 exams next week.

Also on Friday, the National Union of Students said the refusal to set exams was "extremely worrying" and condemned the "disproportionately destructive impact" on students.

Nationally, the employers have called on the unions to ballot their members on an offered pay rise of 12.6% over three years.

But the General Secretary of the AUT, Sally Hunt, has accused universities and colleges of ignoring her request to return to negotiations.

She told BBC Radio 4's the World Tonight there was a real danger that students would not graduate unless negotiations resumed.

"[This] is what I have been asking for for the last five days since the talks stalled and I've had no response."

Students 'not able to graduate'
13 May 06 |  Education

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