Workers at University College London (UCL) celebrated a victory last week as management backed down on plans to push through academic redundancies.
Bosses wanted to make £20 million worth of cuts and refused to negotiate on compulsory redundancies.
But the threat of strike action by workers in the UCU lecturers’ union forced them to promise no compulsory redundancies.
Management wanted to set up an Academic Redundancy Committee for Life Sciences, with a “hit list” of compulsory redundancies unless staff “volunteered”.
This was a serious attack on independent science that would have undermined UCL’s claims to be a genuinely critical university.
“Tenure” exists to protect academics from being sacked – insulating publicly-funded scientists from political or commercial pressure.
Students joined the campaign and the student union voted to support staff.
It was the militancy of the UCU that stopped the cuts – calling hard-hitting action could have had a significant impact on the university, targeting examinations and risking UCL’s reputation.
Bosses blinked first in this dispute – they wanted the right to restructure at will and sack academic “troublemakers”.
Despite this victory, management has not abandoned nor delayed its cuts programme and we need to continue the fight to save jobs and education.