Workers of the World, &c.

University lecturers’ Unions in the UK (i.e., the equivalent of “college professors” in the USA) are engaged in “action short of a strike” — they are boycotting exams. This is especially damaging in the UK system, in which many final grades are given solely on the basis of exam performance. (Lecturers here at Imperial aren’t involved since we have our own, separate and supposedly better, agreement with our employers.)

Over the the last couple of decades, there is little argument over the real increases in lecturers’ workload and the real decrease in purchasing power of our salaries: the employers themselves, in different contexts, have certainly lamented the lecturers low pay. Before the action, many Members of Parliament signed a letter of support for the Unions. Even Tory shadow minister of Higher Education, Boris Johnson, was on the radio this morning agreeing with their case. (However, he was also saying that the lecturers pay should be docked for participating in the action, a move of dubious legality.) The Guardian, perhaps unsurprisingly came down quite hard on the side of the Unions.

Unfortunately, the employers’ latest offer — 12.6% over three years — seems inadequate, especially in the face of the 25% increases in Vice Chancellors’ pay over the last three years! — and was rejected, although the Unions may have made a slight tactical error in rejecting the offer at a council meeting, rather than by a full members’ vote, giving the employers the chance to call the process undemocratic (although they cannot deny that the Council represents the membership).