Lecturers at Leeds University have won important concessions from their bosses by threatening to strike.
Management wanted to slash the university’s budget by 10 percent and impose compulsory redundancies.
But on the eve of a series of strikes, they offered a new deal.
Management promised no compulsory redundancies in the Faculty of Biological Sciences until January 2011. This was a major flashpoint in the dispute.
They also agreed to a range of other measures that will mean making job cuts in any department a longer and more difficult process.
The lesson is clear—the way to stop cuts is to call strikes.
But the fight isn’t over. Workers have reserved the right to reinstate strikes while unions negotiate the details of the deal with management. And bosses will still want to impose cuts in other ways.
“We’ve shown the way to defend education,” says Malcolm Povey, president of Leeds University UCU union branch. “But the fight isn’t over by any means.”
He was speaking at a rally at the university on Thursday of last week, the day that workers had planned to strike. Around 300 workers and students joined the rally.
The mood was celebratory—but determined to continue the struggle.
“We’ve won a small victory,” says Dan, a Leeds University student. “But I think management will pressure people to take voluntary redundancy or early retirement. We need to keep campaigning.”
The resistance to cuts is stronger after the recent fightback. The UCU branch grew to one of the biggest in Britain over the course of the ballot.
The strike would have hit hard—around 100 people had signed up for picket duty.
University bosses want to run universities as business. They want to bypass unions, impose changes without negotiation and clamp down on academic freedom.
But the threat of industrial action stopped them.
“Some from the right wing criticised us for calling strike action,” added Malcolm.
“They said we would damage education. But if we hadn’t called a strike, we wouldn’t have stopped the compulsory redundancies.”
Workers and students must use the strength they have built up to keep fighting for jobs and education.