Strikes on cards as retrenchment worsens

July 2, 2009

Industrial action is being threatened at a number of universities as cutbacks continue.

Staff at Thames Valley University have warned that they might strike in response to redundancy plans for its faculty of arts.

More than 90 staff have left the institution since last October under a voluntary severance scheme. Now it has earmarked 7.2 full-time equivalent posts for the chop at its Ealing campus, with a further job loss possible at its Reading campus.

The University and College Union has accused Thames Valley of putting its academic reputation on the line, as the latest cuts will mean heavier workloads for remaining staff.

Barry Jones, regional official at the UCU, said the university was "looking to make compulsory redundancies for the sake of a few minimal savings".

Ian Tunbridge, deputy vice-chancellor of Thames Valley, said it had "taken steps to keep ... compulsory redundancies to a minimum".

Meanwhile, UCU members at London Metropolitan University were set to strike on 2 July over plans to axe 550 posts, 226 of them through compulsory redundancy.

The cuts are part of London Met's strategy to cope with its continuing funding crisis. It has been ordered to return £36.5 million overpaid by the Higher Education Funding Council for England after it under-reported the number of its students that had dropped out.

The industrial action would mean the cancellation of classes for the second time in two months - a similar action was taken in May. The union wants assurances that staff who were rejected for voluntary redundancy will not be forced to go.

The UCU has also warned the University of Westminster that it could face industrial action after negotiations on back pay that followed the implementation of the national framework agreement broke down. Westminster has said it cannot afford to backdate the pay.

Finally, the University of Sheffield has offered all 6,000 staff voluntary redundancy in a bid to save £2.5 million a year. Keith Burnett, the vice-chancellor, said: "Our approach is one of prudence in the face of significant financial challenges."

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

UPDATE - 2 July

Union members due to strike at London Metropolitan University on 2 July over job cuts, have called the action off. The industrial action was cancelled after the university said it had not received legal notification of the action from Unison. The University and College Union has called off its own strike in solidarity with Unison. Vicky Easton, head of local government in Unison’s Greater London Region, said: “The employer is insisting that they were not notified of the strike. We have done our best to ensure that we have complied with the legal procedure, but we cannot be certain our members will not be victimised, so have had to cancel.”

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