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Battles over cuts and safety fears in universities

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Issue 2733
UCU members on strike at Brighton University in 2017
UCU members on strike at Brighton University in 2017 (Pic: UCU Brighton)

UCU union members at Brighton University were set to strike on Wednesday of this week. They plan further walkouts on 7, 10, 15 and 16 December.

And union members also plan to begin an indefinite work to rule from Thursday.

Workers are fighting planned redundancies in the IT department. The UCU branch said the cuts are “senseless in current circumstances” where many staff are working from home and rely on IT support. “Students will suffer from these cuts,” it added.

Bosses at the university initially said that 49 workers were at risk of redundancy, five of whom were UCU members. Two UCU members remain at risk of redundancy.

The union branch has said one was refused redeployment into a new IT job, suggesting that management “deliberately wants to make UCU members redundant”.

Some of the workers at risk are in the Unison union.

It held a consultative ballot on taking action. But this was not followed with an official ballot for strikes.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady and UCU president Vicky Blake were set to speak at an online strike rally at Wednesday lunchtime.

The strike comes as university bosses across the sector look to use the coronavirus crisis to attack pay, jobs and conditions.

Everyone should get behind the strike. As Brighton UCU said, “Our dispute is part of a wider picture of resistance building right across higher education.”

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Workers at Northumbria University have voted for strikes over virus-related health and safety concerns. The UCU union said it has become the first union branch in Britain to win such a ballot.

UCU members have voted by 67 percent for strikes on a 67 percent turnout. Some 89.9 percent of those voting also backed action short of a strike. The vote follows huge numbers of positive cases of coronavirus among students and staff at the university.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady described the result as a “massive step forward in our struggle to keep campuses safe”.

The UCU branch has called on all teaching to be moved online where possible and for all non-essential face to face teaching to be cancelled.

Bosses have already limited face to face teaching in response to the strike ballot.

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