University hit by new industrial action

By Roddy AshworthUNIVERSITY lecturers are to impose restrictions on their normal working practices as part of an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

By Roddy Ashworth

UNIVERSITY lecturers are to impose restrictions on their normal working practices as part of an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

Members of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) at Essex University announced yesterday they will begin an indefinite boycott of student assessment - meaning they will refuse to mark students' essays or exams.

The move comes as part of an increasingly-acrimonious dispute between the AUT and the lecturers' national employers, which has already seen union members go on strike for two days last week.

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Of the 412 academic staff employed at the Wivenhoe Park-based university, about half are members of the AUT.

The union said an offer of a 3% rise in pay was not enough and added new wage bargaining mechanisms could see lecturers losing thousands of pounds in career earnings.

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“Today the AUT begins action short of a strike, including a boycott of all assessment work. Our members are doing this not because they want to hurt students, but because they have no choice,” an AUT spokesman said yesterday.

No-one from the university's student union was available for comment last night.

But one final year modern languages undergraduate, who asked not to be named, said: “I have two tests this week and I don't know if they are going ahead now. My flat-mate has already been told her German test this week is cancelled.

“Students generally support the lecturers - it was like suddenly getting two days off when they went on strike last week - but if they start seriously affecting our final year, I think that support will disappear very quickly.

“There have been rumours that if it carries on we won't be able to graduate this year and also that if there's a last-minute agreement all our tests will be held at the end of the end of the year alongside the final exams. The prospect of that has not gone down too well at all.”

A university spokeswoman said last night: “It is regrettable that the AUT is taking this action which will directly affect students.

“This is a national dispute and the university hopes it can be resolved quickly to minimise the impact on our students.”

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