The University and College Union (UCU) announced yesterday that its members at the University of West England (UWE), Bristol, will be balloted for strike action in a dispute over workloads.
The ballot opened yesterday and will close on Wednesday 6th June.
Staff say a new workload calculation system has resulted in over two-thirds (70 per cent) of academic staff regularly working unreasonable hours to fulfil their duties, while three in five (60 per cent) say they are unable to take their annual leave entitlement.
Under the new system some staff have seen their working hours increase by 25 per cent above their contracted hours, with many reporting that they are being asked to take on more teaching and administrative work in addition to their vital research duties.
UCU said the new system had failed and because the university’s management refused to reconsider its use, members at UWE had been left with no option but to ballot for strike action.
Meanwhile, staff and students at the University of Sussex will be holding lunchtime protests next Tuesday (22 May) and Thursday (24 May) against plans to privatise the university’s support services.
On both days potential bidders will visit the campus to assess ways they could take over the running of the affected departments.
On Thursday, staff and students packed a lunchtime lecture theatre to hear from reps from the three campus trades unions – Unison, Unite and the UCU – about management plans to privatise catering, estates and facilities management at Sussex University, transferring 235 workers, more than ten per cent of the workforce, from university employment to private contractors.
At the meeting also attended by students, employees – from caterers and cleaners, to academic, administrative and maintenance staff – were furious to hear about proposals that threaten pensions, pay, conditions and job security, not to mention the quality and price of services, including those in sensitive areas like security, and health and safety.
Union reps reported that alternatives to outsourcing appear not to have been openly considered and the idea that privatisation can improve quality and reduce costs seems to have been uncritically accepted despite abundant evidence to the contrary.
• The UCU has written to universities minister David Willetts calling for urgent changes to the way the government regulates private higher education providers.
The government has admitted that it is not monitoring course standards or student completion rates despite handing over £33 million of taxpayers’ money to private companies in the last year.