‘Clear mandate’ for strike action at Sussex

Massive turnout backs UCU move to combat job cuts. John Morgan reports

March 3, 2010

Union members at the University of Sussex have become the latest to vote for strike action as unrest over higher education cuts deepens across the UK.

The University and College Union said the turnout at Sussex – 80.9 per cent of members – was the highest it had ever had in a ballot.

The university proposes to cut 115 jobs, and its plans to drop research and research-led teaching in English social history before 1700 and European history before 1900 have been met with fierce criticism.

More than three-quarters of staff who voted supported strike action and more than four-fifths agreed to action short of a strike.

The union said it still hoped the dispute could be “resolved without any disruption”.

At a meeting on 5 March, members of the university’s senate will have the opportunity to pass a motion that calls for the job cuts to be put on hold while the academic consequences are fully explored.

Members of the UCU at the University of Leeds have also voted to strike, although action was pulled ahead of a likely deal with management that would stave off the immediate threat of compulsory redundancies.

And a ballot at King’s College London, where managers have proposed cutting 205 jobs, is scheduled to begin on 4 March.

Paul Cecil, president of Sussex UCU, said: “UCU members have today delivered a clear mandate for industrial action at the University of Sussex. We thank our members for participating in such large numbers and reiterate our belief that a negotiated settlement is still possible if the university steps back from implementing its job-cut plans, votes to delay the decision and considers our alternatives.”

A Sussex spokesman said the proposals were being consulted on and that no decisions would be made until the university’s council meets on 12 March. He added: “We have already made clear and repeat our position that ballots for industrial action are not the way in which the process will be influenced. “No action has been notified by UCU to the university. We have contingency plans in place and our priority will to minimise the impact of any action on the teaching and learning at Sussex.”


Update- 4/03/2010

Riot police were called to the University of Sussex after students occupied a building used by senior management in protest over job cuts.

Video footage of one protester being hauled from the crowd and wrestled to the ground by an officer in riot gear during the protest on 3 March has been posted on YouTube.

Sussex Police say in a statement: “To date, no formal complaints have been received in relation to the policing of the demonstration; however, we will be reviewing both the footage recorded by members of the public and that of police evidence-gathering teams.”

About 50 students were reported to have entered Sussex House, where Michael Farthing, the institution’s vice-chancellor, and other members of senior management are based.

Another 100 are reported to have protested elsewhere on campus.

YouTube footage: http://bit.ly/b5AlM9


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