Thousands of jobs are under threat at universities across Britain—and there are signs of resistance.
Workers at Manchester Metropolitan University are due to strike on Wednesday and Thursday of next week.
Bosses want to close the Crewe campus of the university, putting 160 academic staff and others at risk. They have refused to rule out compulsory redundancies.
Some 79 percent of UCU union members who voted backed strikes.
Meanwhile over 300 staff at the University of Manchester gathered last week at a meeting called by the UCU union to discuss fighting back against a threat to 926 jobs.
This includes 171 lecturers and support staff jobs in biology, languages, arts, medicine and business. Other areas hit are administration and catering.
Management blames lack of funds, but the university’s financial statement revealed it had reserves totalling £1.5 billion, including £430 million in readily available cash.
Reps from the Unite and NUT unions and the student union joined the meeting to show solidarity.
The meeting ended with an impromptu demonstration outside the university management’s offices.
Students chanted “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts.”
The university says it needs to “create financial headroom” because of “increased financial, political and sector uncertainty”.
But UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said, “We believe the university is using recent government policy changes and Brexit as an excuse to make short-term cuts that will cause long-term damage.”
A slew of universities are going down the same road (see below).
The timing of the job cuts announcement means that, under the Tories’ new anti-union laws, it is hard for workers to hold strike ballots and to take sustained action before the end of the term.
But that should not stop urgent discussion on how to organise resistance such as marking boycotts or strikes to disrupt autumn registration.
UCU leaders must encourage and coordinate resistance across all the threatened universities.
As workers prepare to fight cuts at two Manchester universities, similar disputes loom around England, Scotland and Wales
Aberystwyth University bosses have written to all members of staff with a request for voluntary redundancies according to the Unison union.
Unison added that “up to 150 jobs” are at risk as the university aims to save £11 million over the next two years.
Southampton Solent University has announced that 62 jobs are at risk.
University of South Wales has been consulting with staff on making 139 redundancies across all four of its faculties and support departments in Cardiff, Treforest and Newport campuses.
Unison branch secretary Dan Beard said workers “have had years of constant restructures, redundancies and uncertainty. Caerleon campus was closed last year.”
Beard slammed “the increasing practice of retaining and recruiting highly paid management staff”. He added, “The union will robustly defend our members’ interests.”
Sunderland University lecturers and staff have been warned compulsory job cuts may be required to deal with falling student numbers.
An e-mail from chief operating officer Steve Knight and deputy vice-chancellor Professor Michael Young has been sent to staff, inviting applications for voluntary severance.
Heriot-Watt University which has campuses in Edinburgh, Galashiels and Orkney announced in March that it wanted to axe around 100 jobs to save £4.25 million.