Lecturers threaten further strikes

April 25, 1997

LECTURERS at Middlesex University are planning further industrial action in protest at plans to close highly regarded design courses and axe 22 jobs.

Natfhe members are threatening to step up action in protest at the university's plans to close five of its popular three-dimensional design courses. The union held a successful one-day strike on April 15 which it claims shut down most of the university's campuses.

Managers have recommended closing the courses in ceramics, metals, furniture and glass design to avoid projected funding problems. It could mean the loss of 16 academic and six technician jobs. The technicians' union Unison is balloting for industrial action.

Union anger has grown after claims that the redundancies are being proposed at the same time the university is trying to build up its financial reserves.

Salt has been rubbed into wounds by the news that the university, which has a good reputation for design, is attempting to raise funds to match National Lottery funding for a new architecture-design museum.

Vice chancellor Michael Driscoll wrote to staff on Monday explaining the reason for the proposed redundancies. "The staffing budget generated through the funding model does not provide for all staff employed now or in the future. It is a situation which will, if not remedied, lead to more serious problems," he stated.

The financial outlook for the next three years was disappointing and he advised staff to read the budget. Later he said that redundancy was a hard option to face: "Collective management sometimes calls for painful choices."

Middlesex is engaged in a wider restructuring exercise. A graph supplied to The THES by the university reveals that if there are no staff reductions the university faces a deficit of about Pounds 3 million by the end of the decade. With staffing reductions there would be a surplus in excess of Pounds 3 million.

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