Strike looms at London Met as v-c cries foul over role of external parties

Academics and support staff at London Metropolitan University are to strike next week over job cuts and redundancy terms – but the vice-chancellor has criticised the action for coinciding with a Left-organised protest.

June 18, 2011

There has been unrest among some staff at London Met since plans were unveiled to cut its course offering by 70 per cent – closing subjects such as history, philosophy and modern languages – in order to pitch tuition fees as low as £4,500 in 2012.

The Unison and University and College Union branches fear that hundreds of academics and support staff will lose their jobs. Members of both unions have now voted to hold a coordinated one-day strike on 22 June.

There will be a rally against cuts at London Met on the same day. Speakers at the “Sounds of Resistance: March against Privatisation” event, organised by the Education Activist Network, will include Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, as well as student Left figures.

Malcolm Gillies, London Met’s vice-chancellor, says in a letter to governors that the date has been “chosen specifically to be part of the…rally”. He adds: “As described on the [rally] flyer there are a number of people involved who are not connected with the university and wish to use the strike and rally as part of a wider political platform.”

A London Met spokeswoman said: “The university has had two meetings in the past week with regards to dispute resolutions. We were therefore surprised at the unilateral stance taken by the unions in calling for a strike.”

The unions have urged Professor Gillies to hold talks to avert the stoppage.

Unison is taking action over job cuts. The university recently announced plans to axe 86 jobs – mainly among support staff but also including some more senior administrative posts. In Unison’s ballot, 71 per cent of those voting supported a strike, on a turnout of 44 per cent.

Max Watson, branch chair, said the strike had the full backing of the students’ union.

The UCU is taking action over the value of the university’s redundancy deals and its failure to offer a voluntary redundancy scheme.

The UCU’s ballot ended in a close result, with 53 per cent of those voting backing strike action. Turnout was 48 per cent.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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