Industrial action begins to hit sector

November 17, 2000

Higher education's winter of discontent is starting to bite as the first wave of strikes over the axing of courses and jobs hits universities.

Staff will strike next week at the College of Ripon and York St John in protest at redundancies. Lecturers at the University of Northumbria will take industrial action over threatened job cuts.

Disputes could hit the University of Teesside, which has set up an employment working party with lecturers' union Natfhe to try to avert job losses. The axe is also hanging over jobs at Liverpool John Moores University and Sheffield Hallam University.

The half-day strike at the College of Ripon and York St John will take place on Thursday. It follows changes to the curriculum, which means it will concentrate on management studies, sports science, film and television studies and drama at the expense of geography, environmental science and perhaps history.

Twenty-two staff are taking up a severance offer and a further seven will be made redundant, four this year and three next.

Alan John, branch secretary of Natfhe, said: "If the college showed some flexibility over the next four or five years, it could live up to its image of a church college that cares for its staff."

At the University of Northumbria, lecturers voted 220 to 71 in favour of industrial action after the university proposed a 7 per cent reduction in staff numbers. From next week, lecturers will refuse to mark assessments and attend exam board meetings. There will also be an overtime ban.

Natfhe branch chairman Martin Levy said: "We will ballot on strike action if management proceed to compulsory redundancies."

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