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Andrew Price

NATFHE demand pay justice

(May 2006)

From The Socialist, No. 441, 25 May 2006.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

NATFHE MEETS this weekend for its final conference. This follows the decision of members of both NATFHE and the AUT to merge into what will be the largest post-school education union in the world – UCU, the University and College Union. We all welcome the merger, but size alone will not guarantee victory for our members in key battles with the employers and government.

Whichever sector we are in, all minds are on the current dispute in the university sector over pay. There has been a clear attempt by the media, the employers and New Labour to misrepresent this dispute.

The relative pay position of all university lecturers has declined enormously. The union side has submitted a claim for 23.9% over three years. The employers’ offer of 12% over the same period was rightly rejected by the union side. It is the union side that should decide when an offer is put to members, not the employers or Alan Johnson, the New Labour secretary of state for education.

Some of the industrial hooliganism we have had to put up with for years in Further Education is now coming to the university sector.

In the University of Northumbria, where our members are operating the exam boycott, the employers have responded by withholding pay completely.

On the 80th anniversary of the British General Strike, few would have predicted that the lockout originating in the coal mines would be deployed in a university!

To their great credit, our Northumbrian members have voted in a ballot for indefinite strike action. They must not stand alone. Conference must decide to pay them the maximum possible amount in strike pay and, as soon as possible, all the university sector must be brought out in indefinite action.

On the fringe, plans will be laid for the founding conference on 24 June of the proposed new left organisation in UCU – a conference that has the potential to build big support for a left programme.

Elsewhere on the fringe there will be a meeting of the Campaign for a New Workers’ Party. The creation of such a party is long overdue for all who work in post-school education where the system of free market capitalism, beloved of both the Tories and New Labour, has done so much damage not just to our pay and conditions but to the service we offer our communities.

Andrew Price was a NATFHE NEC member representing Further Education Wales

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