‘THE chaotic scenes during enrolment say it all: we lost over 350 jobs last year and you can already see the difference,’ said the UCU and Unison, as they launched a joint 48-hour strike at London Met University on Thursday.
Appealing for support from students and the general public, the striking trade unions added in a leaflet: ‘Management want to make another 100-200 redundancies and won’t tell us exactly who is for the chop. They even want to shut down the last of three nurseries without considering any options.
‘Staff and students at London Met are sick of being told it is us who have to pay the price for their incompetence. There was an independent inquiry into the financial crisis at London Met. Why don’t the Governors wait until that report is published in November before they announce any further job cuts?’
The leaflet added: ‘UCU and Unison have been trying to negotiate: we even offered to go to ACAS to try to resolve this. Management won’t budge. This is our last resort: to strike during teaching.’
Another appeal to students urged: ‘SAVE London Met – Staff and Students unite and fight!’
The leaflet warned that cutting hundreds of posts ‘will dramatically worsen the quality of education andservices at London Met’. It added: ‘Staff and students have a common interest in fighting these cuts.
‘Last summer, the ex-Vice Chancellor, Brian Roper, announced the University was in financial crisis due to incorrect student statistics being passed to the Higher Education Funding Council. As a result the university’s grant has been cut by £18m a year and a £38m overpayment has to be returned over three years. These blunders are not the fault of lecturers, support staff or students but we are being made to pay for them.
‘The unions have suggested how the Uni could avoid these staggering staff losses but the management have refused to consider them, insisting that up to 550 full-time staff are made redundant amounting possibly to some 7-800 staff losses (1 in 4 of the current workforce).’
Students eagerly grabbed the leaflet and joined the UCU-Unison picket lines. The leaflet added: ‘The queues outside the undergraduate and other admin offices speak for themselves, posts have already gone leaving fewer staff to cope. Nurseries, too, which are vital to many students, are being closed and staff made redundant.
‘Across the board courses have been cut and students offered less choice and opportunity. For staff workloads are increasing for students there is less support. Further redundancies will lead to:
• ‘Fewer specialist courses, fewer module options
• ‘Fewer lecturers with specialist knowledge
• ‘Larger classes, less class time and less individual contact with staff
• ‘Over-reliance on web-based learning tools such as WebLearn
• ‘Fewer specialist librarians and in-house IT staff
• ‘Reductions in specialised support from units such as the LDU
• ‘Longer queues, fewer and more stressed and overworked university staff.’
London Met students rallied with striking staff outside the university’s Holloway Road buildings as two sites were closed completely on Thursday because of the strike action.
Max Watson, London Met Unison chair, opened the rally by reading out a message from Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis. Watson declared: ‘We’re not going away. We’re united, we are strong and we’ve shown the power of collective action today.’
Ex-UCU president, Sasha Callaghan, told the rally: ‘It shouldn’t be the students, the support staff and the lecturers who have to pay the price here.’ She said the cuts would deny thousands of students ‘their life chances’ and said the action of university management was ‘disgusting’. She added: ‘We know all about vice-chancellors and principals who think they can do just what they like.’
She condemned a culture of university bosses paying themselves ‘huge bonuses’ whilst sacking staff and closing courses. ‘They can’t pick up and put down people’s lives just to suit their pockets,’ she said angrily.
Cliff Snaith, London Met UCU Coordinating Committee Secretary, said: ‘Everything here is just appalling. Everything that comes from management is just inexplicable and irrational at every single level. How can it be rational to cut, cut and cut again at a community university like London Met.
‘Our new interim vice-chancellor referred to us all having to develop a new common purpose. It’s similar to the rhetoric of the Tory conference: “We are all in it together’’.
‘We are not in it together and won’t have a common purpose until they understand that it’s the management, and not the staff or the students or the facilities, that have to go at this university!
‘The “cost improvement’’ plans put forward to us at this university are an absolute disgrace. It’s not “common purpose’’, it’s the staff and the students and the communities against the management.
‘All the communities will lose out drastically if we lose a university in London.’
Student Tina Fagbohungbe spoke out in support of the striking staff. She said: ‘The staff are not looked after, the students are not looked after. We have to stand together and fight.’
Megan Redmond, London Met Unison, said: ‘We’re sincere about education, but I don’t think this government ever was.’
Mark Campbell, UCU executive committee member (Higher Education sector), said: ‘The fact that we’ve already closed a couple of buildings today shows the support there is for our strike action.’
He urged: ‘Go back to your students and staff and make sure tomorrow they close more buildings down! The management don’t represent us, they don’t represent the university and don’t represent the interests of students and staff and they’re quite happy to denude students of educational opportunities. This is our university and we will fight to defend it, it’s as simple as that. Be here tomorrow, but bring your friends!’
BIT business student Claire Locke also spoke out in support of the strikers and Alastair Smith, a UCU member, said: ‘I’ve been a teacher for the last 15 years in this area. This isn’t just about our jobs, it’s about our community. This university belongs to the community. It certainly doesn’t belong to the management.
‘We need more universities, yet our management are hell-bent on cutting our university. This is something we can’t tolerate. When you see all the support and solidarity, you realise we can win.
‘In the summer the students occupied. I’m absolutely in support of that.’
Claire Locke told News Line: ‘I’ve had to change course because some of the modules I want to do have been cut. I’ve lost teachers and I’ve lost resources that affect my education. I’m not just fighting for my teachers’ jobs, I’m fighting for my education and my fellow students’ education.
‘The students union staff have just taken a 10 per cent pay cut and they are already undermanned and overworked. And I’m wondering if the management have taken a pay cut, as a 10 per cent cut in their pay would make a much more cost-effective contribution. I don’t think that the cuts should be accepted.’