Universities face academic walk-out on 7 March

Universities across the UK could be ghost towns on 7 March as academic staff strike over pay.

Lecturers, researchers and academic-related staff will refuse to cover colleagues’ work, mark students’ work or take part in the exam process as part as an ongoing boycott.

Academic unions AUT and NATFHE claim that higher education employers have reneged on public promises to use new government funding – and the extra billions from top-up fees – to improve pay.

The unions voted in favour of industrial action last week and warned that unless the employers make a concerted and swift effort to resolve the pay dispute, millions of students will be left with coursework unmarked, lectures and seminars cancelled, and their exam programmes thrown into chaos.

AUT general secretary Sally Hunt accused education employers of “gambling disgracefully” with students’ futures.

“Our decision to take industrial action has not been taken lightly. The employers have had months to stop this happening and, even after our resounding mandate from members for industrial action, they still haven’t made us a pay offer,” she said.

However, university employers reconfirmed their offer of constructive negotiations with the AUT and NATFHE unions if they put on ice their plans for industrial action.

Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of employers’ body UCEA, said: “The employers stand ready to negotiate pay rises for 2006-07 for all HE staff; the academic unions’ tactics will not increase what universities can afford.”

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