Lecturers warn of national strike

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

Image caption,
Lecturers say spending cuts are threatening jobs

University lecturers could opt for a national strike unless agreement is reached over redundancies, says a lecturers' union leader.

Sally Hunt, head of the UCU union, said there could soon come a point when her members would push for action at a national level.

Lecturers were reporting redundancies daily, she said.

University employers said they were "disappointed" by the threat of national industrial action.

The University and College Union, meeting for its annual conference, said there had been more than 15 strikes across the sectors since March.

And a number of colleges and other institutions were waiting for strike ballots to come back.

"You can't carry on with that, without a backlash," Ms Hunt warned.

She said she had just heard about 100 job losses at Glasgow University. And these came on top of losses at King's, Westminster, UCL and the University of Arts.

Three colleges in the West Midlands are balloting on strike action, as is England's biggest college, Manchester College

Speaking ahead of the conference, Ms Hunt said: "We are getting almost daily reports of redundancies from our officials and there's a point in time when you can't actually carry on without a backlash."

"We are in talks with the higher education employers and have been for the last two years requesting and negotiating for a job security agreement.

"We have got to get some parameters between the universities and unions negotiating these cuts."

'Slashing courses'

She said if these talks were not successful, the union would consider seeking a ballot on strike action.

"It's getting to the point where there's a question mark in my mind - how long does this remain a local action?

"Soon our members will want us to take this to a national level and make a national response too."

The union wants to see meaningful consultation from universities and colleges and a halt to compulsory redundancies.

In her speech to congress on Tuesday, she will claim that the new government is cutting colleges and university budgets by £1.5bn, while offering £8bn in tax giveaways to business.

'Rise together'

"We will not accept the attack on education being implemented by the current government," she says.

"Nor will we stand back while students with the ability to benefit from education are stopped from doing so and told to accept their lot in life."

"The day Congress began I counted more than 100 institutions making cuts - slashing courses; sacking staff; usually both," says Ms Hunt.

The higher education employers' organisation, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, expressed "disappointment" at the possibility of national industrial action.

Chief executive Jocelyn Prudence also highlighted that universities were independent employers

"A one-size-fits-all approach would be like the CBI creating an agreement for the private sector," she said.

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