THE UNIVERSITY has played down fears of the proposed lecturer strikes schelduled for later in the academic year.
Concerns have been raised by some students that their graduation could be delayed if lecturers refuse to mark crucial exams or pieces of assessed work.
David Garner, the University Press Officer, stated that “there is no way” students’ graduation will be disrupted.
However, representatives of the AUT (Association of University Teachers) recently proposed an “assessment boycott” in which exam preparation would be “halted”, in a recent press release.
The threat of strike action comes after negotiations between the AUT and University officials broke down in the first week of term.
The Union, which represents a large portion of teaching fellows at the University, is demanding increased salaries for lecturers and argues that the Vice Chancellors of York have failed to live up to their promise of “substantial increases” in pay for lecturing staff once the new nationwide top-up fees are launched.
The AUT have begun the process of allowing members to vote for action to be taken against the University. This was met with severe displeasure from David Garner who stated “we’re disappointed they have balloted members before negotiations are complete”.
However, Garner was optimistic about the outcome, adding that there are “no guarantees” of any action being taken and that the university will “will do its utmost to make sure that if any action is taken, it will have no impact on the way that students are assessed”.
The Students’ Union also played down the rumoured threat of students being affected, by showing no signs of an urgent intention to lobby against the teachers’ Union.
SU services officer, Nat Thwaites-McGowan, said “we don’t have any policies in place, so I don’t think it would be correct for us to lobby against the action which the AUT is taking”, and when asked what action would be taken if the strike did go ahead he said only that “we will have to cross that bridge when we come to it”.
However, despite the Union saying that it “remains hopeful any disruptive action can still be avoided” and that “further talks will continue during the balloting process”, Vice-President of York’s AUT, Dr Simon Parker, also a Politics lecturer at the University, said that University employers will have to “return to the negotiating table with serious proposals to avoid any dispute”.
When asked for their position on the matter, the Students’ Union were quick to “support the lecturers’ struggle for increased pay”; but added that they cannot “support any means of achieving their goal which would put students’ education at risk”.
Thwaites-McGowan commented “I don’t think it is an overreaction” by the AUT, as “putting students’ education at risk and threatening to walk away is the only thing that the lecturers have”.
The AUT, which was formed in the early 20th century, is a national trade union that provides support and advice to over 48,000 higher education professionals in the UK. The union prides itself on representing the traditional university sector, with regional departments in Oxford and Cambridge as well as in York. The AUT recently announced a merger with fellow lecturers’ Union NATFHE under the new name of the University and College Union (UHU).
By Daniel Whitehead