The University and College Union (UCU) yesterday 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 union had given the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) until 20 April (Monday) to provide a credible response to its demands for the need for a national agreement to avoid redundancies in the UK’s universities.
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.
‘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.
‘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.’
• Local government unions, GMB, Unison and Unite, representing 1.6 million council workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland yesterday formally rejected the 0.5% pay offer made by the local government employers for 2009.
Unless it is formally accepted by June 1, 2009, the employers have threatened to withdraw the offer.
Both sides agreed to hold further meetings to continue negotiations.