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CAUT Bulletin Archives

June 1999

Academic Staff in the UK Take Action to Restore Salary Levels

The one-day strike by university staff to improve pay levels in the UK last month is only the beginning warns the nation's Association of University Teachers.

The militant action is part of a national campaign to persuade university employers to restore salary levels for higher education staff.

The AUT says their members have had lower salary increases than all other public sector groups throughout the 1990s. Over the last two decades, while average earnings have risen by 40% over and above inflation increases, the salaries of academic staff increased by a meagre 3.1%.

In early February AUT put in a claim for a 10% salary increase as the first step to closing the huge pay gap. In mid-April the Universities and Colleges Employers Association tendered a final offer of 3.5%.

"What we are asking for is fairness not favours,"said AUT general secretary David Triesman. "We know the universities could afford more than a 3.5% increase. Now is the opportunity to make staff a priority.

"Recent pay awards have been less than the teachers, doctors and dentists have received through their pay review bodies. For staff this has become seriously disheartening and is leading to problems of morale and some retention difficulties."

The AUT says staff are also angry over the casualisation of almost 50% of staff and the systemic institutional pay discrimination against women. "The scandal of pay differences in higher education for men and women must be remedied, and the system must rid itself of the stigma of the current proliferation of short-term contracts," Triesman said.

Unless changes are achieved by negotiation which are worthy of being put to members, the programme of industrial action in the ensuing months will escalate. Included in the action plan are examination sanctions in June, steps for work cessations, boycotts, disruption in student admissions in August, and further strike action in the early part of the next academic year. The action plan has been endorsed by the National Union of Students.

"Academic staff feel forced to take action. Employers should be under no illusion. A ground swell of action will build in a united way across higher education if the dispute continues into the autumn," warns Triesman. "We're fighting for the future of higher education -- tomorrow's students as well as today's."

CAUT has sent a letter to AUT expressing solidarity and support for AUT's strike and other actions. "We applaud your determination to win justice and fairness for your members," said CAUT executive director Jim Turk.

Letters of support can be sent to The latest pay campaign news and information can be viewed at