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Union members at Soas call a walkout after ‘appalling’ attacks on workers

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Issue 2688
Workers at Soas during a wildcat strike over a restructure last year
Workers at Soas during a wildcat strike over a restructure last year (Pic: Irang Bak)

A group of workers at Soas University of London plan to walk out this week over bosses’ plans to impose serious attacks on staff. The plan will effectively put workers on casual contracts out of a job.

Bosses want to cut the budget for fractional staff – those workers employed on a fraction of a full term contract.

Management announced last week that research leave for permanent academic staff will be suspended. This will push those workers to take up more of the teaching hours at Soas, leaving fewer teaching opportunities for fractional staff. Workers have called for a walkout on Thursday.

A statement from the UCU executive committee at Soas said,We call on students and colleagues to join us in a lunchtime Walk Out at 1pm this Thursday, 23rd January on the Soas steps. Cost savings are being made via job and salary cuts for the most vulnerable academic staff.

Fractional budgets are being slashed, meaning Soas is deliberately targeting the most insecure teaching staff. We know this will disproportionately impact female and BAME workers, who are over-represented in casualised roles.”

Sandy Nicoll is branch secretary of the Unison union at Soas. “This is an appalling move that targets the most vulnerable of our academic colleagues,” he told Socialist Worker.

“Soas Unison stands 100 percent behind those planning to walk out.”

Sandy said Soas bosses are looking for “quick fixes” to financial problems. “Fractionals have been thrown under a bus,” he said.

“There’s a lot of anger about it. We’ve got a top heavy management team – why not make cuts there?”

The student union at Soas met this week and passed an emergency motion to back workers who take action. Union members in Unison and the UCU union are organising to support action too.

The UCU statement said, “The frontline work fractional staff do is central to the functioning of the university. By cutting fractional budgets, an exceptionally large teaching workload will be passed onto permanent members of staff, exacerbated by the intake of students from the foundation year and ever-growing targets for student recruitment.

“By suspending research leave, management are effectively extending the working day with no commensurate increase in pay. This will negatively impact staff morale and generate unmanageable workloads for already overstretched staff.

“The proposed redundancy of insecure staff rather than a pathway towards permanent employment represents the ultimate abuse of a casualised workforce; extending the casualisation model to the permanent workforce.”

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