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Universities to be hit with industrial action unless urgent action on job cuts is agreed

UCU has warned that higher education could be brought to a standstill as the union announced that it is balloting its members in higher education over job cuts across the sector.

The union said the employers' refusal to act as the crisis over jobs deteriorated had forced it to ballot for industrial action.

'The failure of the employers to react to the growing crisis  has forced our hand. We need to get an agreement sorted now to stop a wide ranging cull of academic jobs without proper alternatives being considered.'


Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary

The union had given the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) until 20 April to provide a credible response to its demands for the need for a national agreement to avoid redundancies in the UK's universities. It said today that industrial action was far from inevitable and it hoped that the employers would now appreciate the gravity of the situation and stop dragging their feet.

The union's fears over job cuts had been heightened when UCEA told the union it expected around 100 institutions to make collective redundancies. By Monday's deadline the union had only received a reply from UCEA's chair, Bill Wakeham, that suggested the union should be patient over job losses in the sector. Ballot papers will begin to be issued on 1 May and the ballot will conclude on 22 May.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'UCEA has indicated that up to 100 universities, around two-thirds of participating institutions, are looking to lose people and our own research indicates that the scale of job cuts is substantial. Every UCU member, whatever type of institution they work in, is potentially vulnerable as current proposals for cuts at institutions as varied as the universities of Liverpool, Reading, Hertfordshire, and London Metropolitan show.

'In this situation of great uncertainty for staff across the UK, national negotiations are required to protect jobs. UCU has therefore asked UCEA to sit down with the unions now to reach a national agreement on the avoidance of redundancies by its member institutions. The key thing is to ensure that we have a situation where all acknowledge that redundancies are a final resort, not the first option as seems to be at some institutions at the moment.
 
'It is the failure of the employers to react to the growing crisis that has forced our hand. We need to get an agreement sorted now to stop a wide ranging cull of academic jobs without proper alternatives being considered. Given the urgency of the situation the union's officers have agreed to ballot for industrial action.'

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