South Bank strikers blame injunction

June 28, 1996

Lecturers fighting mass redundancies at London's South Bank University claim they have been forced into taking strike action because of a threatened injunction from university solicitors.

Natfhe branch spokesmen said that they intended to notify the university this week of the official action to be taken on Wednesday when the university's academic board is due to meet. They say that they had intended to lobby the board unofficially over university plans to axe some 84 academic posts amounting to around 14 per cent of the institution's full-time Higher Education Funding Council for England-funded academic staff. The union says this figure includes at least 12 compulsory redundancies.

But Natfhe branch spokes-woman Mary Davis told a fringe meeting of South Bank lecturers and supporters, held during Tues-day's national higher education day of action, that a letter from univer-sity solicitors warned that they would be seeking an injunction pre-venting an unofficial lobby.

Mrs Davis said: "Instead of lob-bying we will be forced into taking industrial action. That is submitting names and losing a day's pay. They have also said that we may be in breach of the laws of trespass if we lobby the board meeting."

Simon Hughes, local Liberal Democrat MP for Southwark and an honorary fellow of the university, spoke in support of the lecturers at Tuesday's rally saying that he would be demanding answers from the university. He also criticised the "obsessive secrecy" of the South Bank senior management team led by Gerald Bernbaum, vice chancellor.

A university spokesman said that while the institution regretted the strike decision, it was cheered by news that Natfhe's regional office is seeking urgent talks in a bid to avert the strike.

* The High Court has turned down an appeal by a former student union vice president for a judicial review of South Bank University's decision to expel him. Aniere Ebu-zoeme was refused leave for a judi-cial review of the university's March 29 decision to expel him amid allegations of financial and procedural impropriety. His solici-tor Daniel Machover said he is seeking an extension of legal aid with a view to taking the case to the Court of Appeal. Three other students were due to appear in the High Court yesterday for leave to commence judicial proceedings against the institution.

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