By Sophie Squire
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South London’s Roehampton university could sack half of its academic staff

Bosses at Roehampton, Wolverhampton and De Montfort universities plan huge job cuts
Issue 2806
Eight people on the picket line at Manchester college to illustrate a story about Roehampton university job cuts and strikes at north west colleges. They hold UCU union placards

Further education college workers are striking over pay in the north west of England (Picture: Geoff Brown)

Around half of academic staff at the University of Roehampton face losing their jobs. Bosses at the south London university have threatened over 220 posts. They sent an email to workers in the creative arts, education, humanities, life sciences, and psychology departments on Tuesday saying their jobs would be at risk.

Linda Cronin, Roehampton UCU union branch chair, described the cuts as the “P&O of education”—a reference to ferry bosses sacking 800 workers in March. “Workers are furious about this attack,” she told Socialist Worker. “The university’s restructuring plans will mean that staff will be asked to reapply for the same jobs, others will find they will have a different job description.

“Workers will be pitted against each other for fewer jobs. These cuts put the quality of education at risk—students going into the third year will find that their teaching staff will no longer be there to supervise them. We’ll be having an emergency meeting next week to discuss what our next steps will be.”

Linda added, “I also think these cuts fit well with Tory neoliberal ideology. Our chancellor wants to be seen to be leading the race to the bottom we see in the post-92 university sector.”

The attacks don’t stop with Roehampton. At De Montfort university in Leicester, management plans to cut 58 roles for professional services, teaching and professorial staff under the guise of the coronavirus crisis. It’s offensive to workers because De Montfort has £120 million in cash reserves. 

At Wolverhampton university in the West Midlands, the bosses announced that they would no longer recruit students to 138 courses for at least a year. Almost all of the courses are arts subjects. Wolverhampton UCU wrote on Twitter, “This decision speaks for itself—not only of the devastating cuts to the region these changes will bring and of the desire to avoid real public consultation and conversation.”

University bosses feel boosted by the Tories’ promise to slash arts budgets from £36 million to £19 million this academic year. While arts subjects are in the firing line, any course could be cut if chancellors feel they aren’t profitable enough. 

But the UCU leadership also bears responsibility for emboldening the bosses, having undermined the national disputes over pensions, pay, workload, casualisation and inequalities. The union must show that it’s prepared to fight and organise strikes to beat back the bosses’ attacks.

Further education workers fight for higher pay

College workers headed to picket lines across the north west this week to demand a pay rise of at least 8.5 percent. UCU union members walked out at Burnley College, Bury College, City of Liverpool College, Hopwood Hall, Nelson & Colne College Group and Oldham College on Wednesday. Workers at The Manchester College struck on Friday. 

Since 2009 workers’ wages in further education have plummeted by as much as 35 percent in real terms. Strikers organised a rally in Manchester to mark the day of strikes. Janet Farrar, the president-elect of UCU, told the crowd that workers are demanding, “proper pay for staff, improved staff lives but also improves students education”. 

There was solidarity at the rally from the Unison union and North West TUC union federation. Jay McKenna offered full support from the TUC, saying, “It’s only trade unions taking action that will make a difference. Solidarity today—and join the protest in London on 18 June. 

There were cheers from the crowd when one worker stood up and proposed that strikes continue. 

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