UCU union members at London Metropolitan University are holding an indicative ballot for strikes against mass job cuts.
Bosses have announced plans for 395 redundancies—and have imposed compulsory redundancy on two leading union reps, Mark Campbell and David Hardman.
The ballot also asks if workers would call on the union to begin a boycott—“greylisting”— of the university if bosses don’t back down.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sent a message of support to a protest and rally held at London Met against the cuts last Saturday.
He said, “I am particularly concerned that two union representatives have been selected for compulsory redundancy.”
Corbyn said the attacks are part of a bigger agenda of privatisation in higher education. Protesters agreed.
Eamonn Leddy, UCU branch secretary at City and Islington College in north London, said there is a “desperate situation” in higher education.
He told Socialist Worker, “They will probably try and privatise London Met and some people made redundant may be reemployed on worse contracts. “London Met is a test case. Everyone is watching to see what happens.”
Bosses recently appointed Mark Russell Anderson as the university’s chair of governors. Anderson worked for Pearson, the biggest private education company in the world.
Richard Payne has worked at London Met for 12 years. He told Socialist Worker, “You can’t help but draw the conclusion that Pearson is waiting in the wings to privatise London Met.”
London Met is at the sharp end of a much bigger assault.
Workers there should expect the full support of their national union. But UCU general secretary Sally Hunt did not attend last Saturday’s protest.
Workers have called on her to personally intervene in the dispute and to make it a national issue.
There is potential to resist. Richard said, “We had bigger union meetings than usual last week. New faces arrived, wanting to know what’s going on.”
Mark Campbell told Socialist Worker, “If people vote yes in the indicative ballot, we can initiate a ballot at the beginning of September.
“That would allow us to strike later that month.”
London Met UCU member Christina Paine added, “The biggest problem is getting people to feel they can act. There is a culture of fear.
“Our priority is to get the word out about the ballot and make sure people vote.”