Lecturers will continue marking boycott
DEFIANT lecturers have said they will continue a marking boycott despite student condemnation and the threat of pay cuts.Members of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) at Essex University have said they will not bow to pressure after their vice-chancellor, Sir Ivor Crewe, said a 15% cut in their pay would be imposed on them as of today .
By Roddy Ashworth
DEFIANT lecturers have said they will continue a marking boycott despite student condemnation and the threat of pay cuts.
Members of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) at Essex University have said they will not bow to pressure after their vice-chancellor, Sir Ivor Crewe, said a 15% cut in their pay would be imposed on them as of today .
This will increase by 10% every week until it reaches 65% for those taking part in the assessment boycott, which has seen university exams disrupted across the country as union members refuse to support them or mark papers.
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The continuing action threatens to lead to many students at the Wivenhoe based university not knowing whether they have graduated this summer, or what level of degree they have attained.
Both the AUT and its sister union, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE), are in dispute nationally and recently rejected a 12.6% pay offer over from the University and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA), spread over three years.
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Instead the unions want to see that figure raised to 25%, to be taken from new funding universities are to receive from the Government.
They insist that the pay claim is an attempt to address a long-term shortfall in academic and related salaries, which they estimate have fallen by 40% in comparison to other professions over 20 years.
Sir Ivor - whose own salary has increased by 20.3% over the last three years - wrote a letter to AUT members announcing details of the pay cuts.
But at a defiant meeting, union members have vowed to stand firm and resist pressure from university management.
Essex University's AUT president, Aulay Mackenzie, said: “The mood of the meeting showed that we shall not be bullied.
“The latter from the vice chancellor has angered many staff, and we have seen new people joining the AUT as a result.
“AUT members showed that they overwhelmingly reject the derisory pay offer from the employers' association, UCEA, which does nothing to address the very real concerns we have about academic pay.
“We are standing firm in our action.”
Yesterday a spokeswoman for the Wivenhoe-based university said: “'The University very much regrets that some staff have so far boycotted assessment.
“This partial performance is a breach of contract and as we enter the crucial examination period we have now taken the difficult decision to withhold a proportion of pay.
“Our primary responsibility is to our students and a boycott that potentially prevents final year students from graduating in July can do real damage to their educational and employment prospects.
“We will do everything possible to ensure that examinations will be marked and that students will be able to graduate.
“All examinations have been set and we urge our students to continue revising and to attend according to their timetable.”
Meanwhile the Student Union at the university has passed a formal motion condemning the lecturers' action.
President Siobhan Kanealy said: “Last Tuesday the Student Union passed a policy to openly condemn any member of staff who engages in action that negatively affects the progression or graduation of our students.
“We have written an open letter which has been circulated to our membership and will go in our student newspaper which openly condemns members who support action short of a strike.”