UCL strike action suspended

Management says compulsory redundancies are ‘not necessary’, but industrial action still on cards if position changes again. John Morgan reports

May 4, 2010

Strike action at University College London has been suspended after management pulled back from making the institution’s first compulsory redundancies among academics.

Members of the University and College Union had been set to strike on 5 May in protest at plans for job cuts in the Faculty of Life Sciences.

The university had said it would set up a redundancy committee to select individual scholars for the axe, a move required by its constitution in the event of academics being laid off.

The UCU feared compulsory redundancies in the life sciences would have set a wider precedent as management seek 6 per cent savings across the institution. Compulsory redundancies would threaten academics’ freedom of inquiry, union members argued.

But in a statement released today, UCL says that Mary Collins, its dean of life sciences, “plans to advise UCL council, no later than 14 May, that a redundancy committee to reduce the number of academic posts in the faculty will not be necessary”.

“She will be able to do this as soon as all volunteers have been able to formally confirm acceptance of their voluntary severance and early retirement packages,” it says.

The statement adds: “UCL has established a joint consultative group to review future workforce planning and to revise [its] organisational change and redeployment policies in light of recent experience.

“As a result of these assurances, the UCU has today agreed to suspend its dispute and the strike action called for 5 May will not now go ahead.”

Sean Wallis, UCU branch president, said: “If it transpires that UCL goes back on the agreement or goes through with the redundancy committee, then the dispute is back on. It is a suspension.”

Mr Wallis said UCL had suggested that it wants to cut about 20 jobs in the life sciences, although it had not put a definite figure on the table.

“There is obviously a lot of tension about whether UCL is genuinely making voluntary redundancies with the threat of the academic redundancy committee hanging [over staff],” he added.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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