Staff in capital call for strikes

UCU ballots produce majorities backing industrial action at UCL and Westminster. John Morgan reports

April 21, 2010

Strikes are on the cards at two London universities after votes by union members.

Ballots held by the University and College Union at University College London and the University of Westminster both supported strike action over planned job cuts.

Voting at the universities closed today.

If strikes are mounted at UCL and Westminster, they would follow King’s College London, which was the first institution to hold a stoppage in protest against the current wave of redundancy programmes across higher education.

The UCU said members at the University of Arts London also “look likely to ballot for industrial action”.

At Westminster, 63 per cent of UCU members who voted opted for strike action and 85 per cent backed action short of a strike, the union said.

At UCL, 61 per cent of UCU members who voted supported strike action and 64 per cent endorsed action short of a strike.

Westminster wants to cut 285 posts to reduce staff costs to 60 per cent of total expenditure, while UCL has set up a redundancy committee to select staff in the Faculty of Life Sciences to be compulsorily laid off as it seeks campus-wide savings.

It is thought to be the first time in UCL’s history that it has taken such measures.

Sean Wallis, UCU branch secretary at the university, said: “The provost told the trade unions that UCL is on track to make a surplus of £7 million this year. These are cuts of choice, not necessity, and management could end the dispute tomorrow.”

Peter McLoughlin, UCU branch secretary at Westminster, said: “Management’s decision to seek a 10 per cent cut in staff before July has never been justified by any of the figures they have produced, and savings could be made over a longer period without making people redundant.”

The union said that the “nature and timing of industrial action will become much clearer in the next few days as members at the universities meet to discuss next steps”.

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