One-day strikes to hit four universities on 5 May

Union targets King’s, UCL, Sussex and Westminster over impending job losses. John Morgan reports

April 26, 2010

Simultaneous one-day strikes are planned at four higher education institutions, as the University and College Union seeks to coordinate its response to a wave of redundancies in the sector.

The stoppages are scheduled for 5 May at King’s College London, University College London, the University of Sussex and the University of Westminster. UCU members at the four universities voted for industrial action in opposition to redundancy plans announced by their respective institutions.

Westminster will make 285 redundancies as it bids to reduce staff costs to below 60 per cent of spending.

King’s is planning to cut 205 jobs. The college has drawn criticism from scholars around the world over its plans to axe the UK’s only chair in palaeography – the study of ancient manuscripts – and to lay off two leading computational linguists.

Sussex wants to make around 100 redundancies. There were ugly scenes on campus earlier this year when riot police were called in by management over the occupation of the vice-chancellor’s office by students protesting against the cuts.

And UCL has instituted a redundancy committee – for what is thought to the first time in its history – to select academics to be laid off in its Faculty of Life Sciences. UCU members fear the move will set a precedent as UCL seeks savings across all departments.

Some union members have criticised the UCU for a perceived failure to mount a national response to redundancies in higher education, with institutions across Britain seeking to reduce staff numbers in response to government funding cuts.

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “The impact of funding cuts will be quite simple – staff will lose jobs and there will be a diminished experience for students.

“The universities where we will be taking action on 5 May are not in a generally poor financial position. Rather, they are using the recession to re-engineer their institutions with the result that many hard-working staff will face the dole, and the students they teach or support will be left with a worse service.

“They need to get back around the table with us and work towards a negotiated settlement. Failure to do so will leave us with little option but to strike.”

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