Scientists in pay dispute win support

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BRITISH scientists who earn half as much as European colleagues working on the same project have had their complaints upheld by an independent study. The Britons hope the report's findings signal the end of their 10-year battle for equal status.

The scientists work on the Joint European Torus (Jet) project, pursuing the secrets of nuclear fusion power - the energy that fuels the sun. They have staged a series of one-day strikes this summer, which they believe helped to speed up the study.

The 250 Britons working at Jet are employed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority, which says their salaries compare well with those of its other employees, and with scientists working elsewhere in Britain. On average, the Britons earn between pounds 15,000 and pounds 25,000. Their continental colleagues, working under contracts with the European Commission, earn between pounds 30,000 and pounds 50,000.

The report, from an independent panel of 'four wise men', says British staff at the Jet project in Oxfordshire should be offered temporary European Commission contracts. This would automatically double the scientists' salaries, but perhaps most importantly it would increase their chances of securing jobs in a laboratory on the Continent when the Jet project ends in 1996.