25 May 2006

Green Trade Unionists back AUT and NATFHE

Well I am hoping that today's talks between the unions and the universities bring a swift settlement so that I can clear my marking back log. All very 'memories of a callous picket' circa the winter of discontent 1979...one saving grace is at least you know where you are with the Conservatives. In a week when I thought I must have been writing David Cameron's speeches, good to see Boris Johnson attacking those of us taking industrial action, together with GLA Conservative support for the right wing opposition in Venezuela, I know where I am again and we can see that right wing Labour are faced by traditional right wing Conservatives...

Its already proved to be a bitter dispute, university pay has been sliding and of course, many courses are provided by part time visiting tutors (like yours truly) or even by graduates who are still studying. Universities are increasingly part of the market, so strong Union action from both students and employees is needed. Union action for pay is not the 'revolution' but without some kind of struggle universities are going to keep sliding...good to see some Green Party support


'At its meeting last night the Green Party Trade Union Group unanimously adopted the following policy statement on the current dispute in Higher and Further Education, being undertaken by the teaching trade unions (NATFHE and AUT).


Joseph Healy
GPRC Trade Union Group Representative






The Green Party deplores the damage being done to Universities and
Higher
Education in the United Kingdom by academic salaries that are not
internationally competitive, and which are not competitive within the
UK when
compared to other professions that academics can work in.

The Green Party notes that even Tony Blair has recognised "The
shortfall of
teaching funding has badly hit the salaries of academic staff, which
have shown
practically no increase in real terms over two decades." (speaking to
Universities UK, 14 January 2004).

The Green Party recognises that these low salaries damage the education
of
current and future students, and notes that the National Union of
Students
supports the campaign by the academic trades unions for better pay.

The Green Party notes that the need to increase low academic salaries
was,
according to current Education Secretary (and then Higher Education
Minister)
Alan Johnson, a key reason for the introduction of top-up fees.

He told the House of Commons (29 April 2004) it was "one of the reasons
why we
are pursuing the controversial measures in the Higher Education Bill.
Not only
are we putting in an extra #3 billion from the taxpayer, but an extra
#2
billion will come through existing fees and through the increase.
University
vice-chancellors tell us that, in general, at least a third of that
money will
be put back into the salaries and conditions of their staff. That will
make an
enormous contribution in tackling a very serious and deep-seated
problem.'"

The Green Party calls upon Alan Johnson to put pressure on University
vice-chancellors to stand by their word.

The Green Party is deeply concerned about the damage being done by the
pay
dispute to current students, the reputation of UK universities and
Higher
Education institutions, and relations between staff and management in
UK
universities and Higher Education institutions.

The Green Party notes that the academic trades unions made their pay
claim
early, in October 2005, to enable pay negotiations to be settled well
before
the exam season and before there were adverse effects on students. The
Green
Party also notes that no pay offer of any sort was made in response
until March
2006. The Green Party condemns this delay, which has meant that the
dispute
has not been resolved in time to avoid serious problems.

The Green Party further condemns the refusal of the employers to meet
with the
trades unions until May 8th, and notes that the offer made by the
employers at
that stage was so low that the one academic union that was not already
taking
industrial action, the Educational Institute of Scotland, resolved
immediately
afterwards to ballot about industrial action.

The Green Party calls on all universities and higher education
institutions to
stop docking the pay of staff who have always continued to do the vast
bulk of
their work, and to return the pay docked to all staff who have suffered
such
pay docking.

The Green Party echos the call of the National Union of Students for
the
employers to return to the negotiating table.

The Green Party reiterates its continuing opposition to top-up fees;
but urges,
if there are to be top-up fees, then any pay settlement should be based
around
one third of the extra #5 billion (referred to by Alan Johnson in 2004)
being
used to improve salaries and conditions for staff. '

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