|Belfast AUT Newsletter||Issue no. 2- February 2004|
||previous||next||All Out on the 25th and 27th February|
AUT members have voted overwhelmingly to reject the pay and grading offer and to start industrial action. 66.65% voted for strike action and 81.2% voted to take action short of a strike. The turnout was 54.4%. These figures have delivered a sharp shock to the national employers body, UCEA, and many Vice-Chancellors will be urging them to reopen negotiations.
The AUT National Executive has authorised strike action during the week beginning 23rd February. There will be a national strike on Wednesday 25th February with regional strikes taking place in the rest of the week. The Northern Ireland Regional strike will be on Friday 27th February. Nobody disputes the Labour government’s mandate at Westminister, yet a far smaller proportion of that electorate voted Labour than is represented by the figures above. Let nobody tell you that we do not have a mandate for action. We do, and we intend to use it until a sensible solution is reached.
Some people worry about harming students. At most it would be for a short period. But if we do nothing to stem the decline in UK universities, a whole generation of students will be harmed. Even the Prime Minister publicly admitted that our pay had dropped far behind comparable groups, and universities were given some money to address this. UCEA simply ignored the decline in academic and related pay relative both to that in other countries and to similar UK professions. At a time when all politicians are agreed that the UK needs universities that can compete internationally, we are being offered a step backwards to the pay and conditions of the old polytechnics. The reputation of a university is determined by the work of its academic and related staff. We cannot recruit the best minds and, unless their needs are addressed soon, many existing staff will vote with their feet and work abroad. This is understood by students. NUS President Mandy Telford said: “The NUS recognises that industrial action may be necessary by the AUT to protect its members’ interests. Further, the NUS supports the AUT in its struggle against the employer’s attacks on academic related pay and conditions.” She added: “Students have no desire to be taught by poorly paid demotivated lecturers — which is what will happen if these plans go through.”
The National Union of Students are organising a week of disruptive action
starting on 23rd February on the issue of top-up fees. Central
to this is a student
shut-down by NUS across the UK on Wednesday 25th February. So, combined
together the two actions will result in a complete academic shut-down
across the country. Obviously the two actions are by different groups for
different purposes, but NUS and AUT are linking them by the common theme
of the increasing
differentiation and commercialisation of universities. Whether or not top-up
fees are charged in Northern Ireland will probably depend upon the formation
of a NI Executive. Also the present system of student support is better
here than that in England. These considerations together with timetabling
mean that QUB Students’ Union will organise only limited participation.
|contents||previous||next||What you should do|
We expect all members who were balloted to participate in the strikes. Even though you may not have voted yes we expect you to respect the clearly expressed wishes of your fellow members. Firstly, tell your students that you will not be teaching them or providing them with any form of service on the 25th and 27th. There is no need to make a long speech, but you can offer to explain further after class, etc. If there is a large group of them who want to know more you can ask an AUT officer to attend. We hope to put on the AUT website a short explanatory document that you could down-load and distribute.
On the 25th and 27th you should not set foot on university premises except the Students’ Union. That does not mean that you stay at home. You should make your support visible by turning up for part of the day and picketing a campus entrance near your place of work. Although some of us will be picketing from early on, we will need people throughout the working day. You can pick up placards, armbands and leaflets from the AUT Office before the action, but we will also have people visiting the various picket lines to distribute this material. If there are any problems please contact the AUT Officers on our mobile 079 639 85389 or the Belfast AUT Office on 028 9097 3090 (our secretarial assistant is not an AUT member and so is not called out). We need good communications so I ask anyone who will be carrying a mobile phone on the picket line to send the number in advance to George Dunn (ext 3835 firstname.lastname@example.org ).
We want a good-natured, dignified and EFFECTIVE picket. Do not obstruct anyone, but hand them a leaflet or briefly explain to them the nature of our problems. You should particularly target anybody whom you believe to be a member of academic or related staff. You should explain that we are acting for their benefit and invite them to join us. If they decline, you should not intimidate them. Members of other unions are not on strike and some parts of the employers’ package are advantageous to them, so, after a few cheery words, let them go on their way. You do not have the right to stop vehicles, but most drivers will pause to let you speak to them. Many delivery drivers will automatically turn back at an official picket line. Anybody who drives dangerously should be reported to the police. Sometimes other groups try to exploit picket lines. At the first sign of a potential incident dissociate yourselves from the other group, phone 079 639 85389 or send a messenger to the main gate and, if possible, take a photograph.
On the 25th we hope to have a late morning meeting in the Student’s Union. On the 27th we are arranging a march to the Adelaide Street headquarters of the Department of Learning and Employment (our ultimate paymasters) where we will be met by a column from the University of Ulster. We will give you more details later either directly or via departmental representatives.
The action short of a strike starts on 1 March and is as described on the ballot paper. All members should:
The most effective action
will be the boycott of assessment activity by all members whose work does not
of examination and
assessment work. In particular this means no
setting or marking of examinations or continuous
assessment. Homeworks which do not count towards a mark
are excluded, but practical and clinical assessments, PhD examinations,
are included. If you have
any doubts about what is included, raise it at the General
|contents||previous||next||The Open University in Ireland|
All of the Open University has been included with England for the purposes of the regional strike. If any of you work as tutors for the Open University, the regional strike day for that employment will be Tuesday 24th February rather than the Friday.