Lecturers threaten to strike over cuts

March 2, 2001

Luton University is facing strike action and a national academic boycott as the full extent of its restructuring plans emerge, writes Phil Baty.

Natfhe, the lecturers union, has warned that Luton has no future as a university "in any meaningful sense of the term" after confirmation of plans to cut almost 100 academic jobs and abandon key academic disciplines such as history and English. It accused the university of mishandling its finances and has demanded that all threatened redundancies are dropped.

Luton is facing a funding council claw-back because of a student recruitment shortfall of 10 per cent.

Natfhe is to ballot for a vote of no confidence in vice-chancellor Dai John, pro vice-chancellor Kate Robinson and business school dean Stephen Pettitt, who, it believes, are the managers "most directly implicated". Natfhe said their resignations were "essential" if morale was to be restored.

The university said: "We are in the process of restructuring and more than 90 posts are at risk. We do expect the final number of posts to be significantly fewer. It is regrettable that posts are at risk, but restructuring is necessary for the future health of the institution. There is a consultation period during which we are continuing to discuss matters with staff and unions."

• Natfhe leaders at Sheffield Hallam University are to go ahead with balloting for a vote of no confidence in the management despite dropping strike threats over pay, writes Tony Tysome.

They say they are still unhappy with the university's "draconian" style of decision-making, displayed in the recent announcement that Sheffield Business School is to close.

The university and the union have reached an agreement that staff who had had pay stopped for taking part in industrial action and protests over pay would be reimbursed and that in future the university would "normally" work within national pay agreement guidelines.

But Natfhe representatives said this week that an academic boycott and vote of no confidence would not be called off until it became clear that promises of a "more collegial" approach to management were being taken seriously.

"The decision on the business school was taken without going to the academic board and without negotiations with the unions," a Natfhe spokesman said.

"The way the announcement was handled has sent a shock wave through the university, which was completely unnecessary."

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