Employers' 'unacceptable' stance may lead to strike

Academic union prepares for nationwide action in the wake of a Ucea rebuff. John Morgan reports

April 29, 2010

A union has warned that the "unacceptable" approach of higher education employers to negotiations over pay and job security means that national industrial action is likely.

The five campus unions' requests for a national deal committing institutions to avoiding compulsory redundancies have been rejected by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association. The University and College Union claims that UK higher education institutions have made plans for about 2,300 compulsory redundancies, as managers react to government funding cuts.

The University of Glasgow is the latest to unveil job losses. Unions say 80 jobs could go, including the possible closure of the Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division. The announcement has prompted staff protests.

As well as seeing their job security deal rebuffed, the unions' claim for a 4 per cent pay rise in 2010-11 has been met with a 0.25 per cent offer from Ucea.

The offer follows this year's 0.5 per cent settlement.

The UCU's higher education committee has now given the go-ahead to "commence the necessary preparations for simultaneous industrial action at all higher education institutions should a satisfactory response not be made to the joint union claim".

In the latest issue of the UCU's HE News newsletter, the committee also says it agreed to "recommend ... that industrial action is likely to be necessary to obtain an acceptable offer from the employers in response to our claim".

The stance was agreed "in anticipation of the employers continuing their unacceptable approach to national negotiations", the committee adds.

Ucea and the unions will hold the next meeting of the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff on 5 May.

The sector's last national strike was in 2006.

Rising numbers of UCU branches are opting for local strike action over redundancies, with members at the University of Westminster and University College London the latest to vote for one-day stoppages.

They are scheduled to strike on 5 May - the same day as the second round of strikes at King's College London and the University of Sussex. Westminster wants to cut up to 285 jobs, King's up to 205 and Sussex up to 100.

UCL has set up a committee to select academics from its Faculty of Life Sciences for redundancy - thought to be a first for the institution.

Coordination of local strikes signals an attempt by the UCU to form a national response to lay-offs after criticism from some members that the union had not adequately addressed the scale of the problem.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com.

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