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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 12:55 GMT
Universities hit by strike action
AUT members on strike outside Caledonian University
AUT members went on strike at Caledonian University in Glasgow
Lecturers and students are taking part in strike action at universities across Scotland.

About 6,000 university staff are striking over pay, while students are protesting at the introduction of top-up fees south of the border.

Scottish members of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and the National Union of Students are taking part in action on Wednesday.

They say the free market is being introduced to universities.

A week of joint action across the UK got under way in Wales on Monday.

The action was targeted in England on Tuesday, with a national day of action on Wednesday.

There will be further strikes in Scotland on Thursday and Northern Ireland on Friday.

AUT Scotland President Tom McDonald
We are opposing and protesting about the marketisation of higher education
Tom McDonald
AUT Scotland president
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.

Sir Alan Langlands, principal of the University of Dundee, has written to both the AUT and UCEA urging them to return to the negotiating table.

Much of university life is expected to return to normal across the UK from next week.

But if a settlement is not reached with the AUT about pay and conditions its members will boycott marking and assessment from Monday.

Tom McDonald, AUT president for Scotland, said it was unhappy with the employers' latest pay offer.

'Variable pay'

He said: "We believe this will lead to variable pay throughout the higher education sector. We are opposing and protesting about the marketisation of higher education.

"In terms of pay, we're looking for a lot more than we've been offered. At the moment the offer is a two-year deal at 3.44% and 3% next year.

"That's a pay increase which barely matches inflation. Everyone has recognised that pay for lecturers, researchers and others in the academic sector has fallen behind comparative professions in the past 20 years."

Our jobs have been devalued over the past 30 to 40 years
Law lecturer Alison Britton
Mr McDonald said every university in Scotland had been affected by the strike action and the AUT did not want to harm students' learning.

But he added: "Our action next week will fall short of strike action but will instead centre on a ban on student assessments.

"That is something we don't want to do as we don't want to harm our students, but they understand our plight and the strength of our case.

"The AUT is perfectly happy to get back around the negotiating table."

'Show resistance'

Alison Britton, a law lecturer at Caledonian University in Glasgow, said she and her colleagues were angry at being undervalued.

"We're hoping to show there should be more value given to the jobs we do," she said.

"Our jobs have been devalued over the past 30 to 40 years and unless you show some resistance to that then you won't get respect from the rest of the population.

"This isn't about an exact figure, it's more about recognition of where we sit alongside other professional areas.

"My message to the government is to look at the education provision and those who provide that education."

In his letter to AUT secretary Sally Hunt, Sir Alan urged the union to suspend industrial action.

A universities spokesperson said: "In common with other universities throughout the country the University of Dundee would like to see an end to the current action and to see negotiations taken forward by both sides."


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Elizabeth Quigley
"Lectures have been cancelled and students are boycotting classes"



SEE ALSO:
University protests across the UK
25 Feb 04  |  Education
Q&A: University pay
23 Feb 04  |  Education
'Why I will be on strike'
22 Feb 04  |  Education


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