In the news: 17 May 2019

University of Winchester staff to strike for five days

UCU members at the University of Winchester announced this week that they be taking five days of strike action during May and June in a row over job losses. 

The university has said it wants to get rid of 55 posts - around 10% of the workforce - citing increased pension costs as a reason for the drastic move. The union has said the university must avoid knee-jerk reactions to changes to pensions and rule out compulsory job losses if it wants to avoid disruption.

UCU told the BBC that staff felt members had been left with no option but to take industrial action. Speaking to the Southern Daily Echo, UCU regional official Moray McAulay said: 'UCU members at Winchester have made it quite clear that they will not stand by if the university is going to push ahead with these dangerous cuts. There is absolutely no need for this sort of reaction from the university and we hope the looming strike dates will focus the minds of those in charge.'

Protests at SOAS against far-right party

Staff and students and SOAS will be protesting today against the extreme right-wing party Alternative fur Deutshland (AfD) and the support shown to them by SOAS lecturer, Gunnar Beck, who is standing for the party in next week's European elections.

UCU expressed shock that the academic is involved with a party clearly at odds with the university's values of diversity and internationalism. 

Speaking to the Independent, UCU acting general secretary Paul Cottrell said: 'The AfD is an extreme right-wing, racist, anti-immigration party that has no place on UK campuses. We are shocked that a member of academic staff from SOAS could be involved with a party like this which stands for policies utterly incompatible with the values of diversity, tolerance and internationalism at the very heart of SOAS as an institution.'

 

West Thames College staff on strike for ninth day

Staff at West Thames College were on strike again on Wednesday and Thursday after the college failed to make an improved pay offer. In the recent ballot 100% of UCU members at the college who voted backed strike action.

The latest walkouts by college staff were the eighth and ninth days of action this year in a dispute over the failure of the college to make a decent pay offer to staff who have seen the value of their pay decline by 25% in the past decade.

Further strikes are planned if there is no improved offer and the union said that the college could not hide behind government cuts if it wanted to avoid further disruption.

 

Dundee principal £40,000 relocation payment criticised

It was revealed this weeek that the University of Dundee gave its new principal £40,000 towards moving costs, on top of a salary of around £300,000. 

Speaking to the Herald, UCU Scotland official Mary Senior said: 'Staff at Dundee University will be wondering why their new principal is getting a £40,000 disruption allowance on top of a quarter of his salary for moving 230 miles to a job he applied to do.'

 

Fight to save Stourbridge College 

UCU will be holding a public meeting next week as part of a campaign against plans by Birmingham Metropolitan College to close Stourbridge College and force students and staff to travel to alternative sites. The meeting will take place on Wednesday 22 May at 7pm.

Speaking to the Express and Star, local councilor Peter Lowe said: 'We should stand shoulder to shoulder with students, tutors, unions, community activists and demand this decision is overturned.'

 

Education think tank highlight cuts to further education funding

Cuts to funding and pay in 16-19 education were in the news again this week after a report from the Education Policy Institute described how both had fallen significantly in the last decade.

Responding the report in the Independent, Paul Cottrell said: 'Severe cuts to further education funding have led to job losses, course closures and fewer learning opportunities. Staff have seen their pay fall and colleges are struggling to recruit the expert staff they need. The situation is completely unsustainable. If the government wants to ensure that everyone can access the skills they need to get on in life, it must urgently invest in further education colleges and their staff.'

 

Rising inequalities in pay, health and opportunities

Widening inequalities in pay, health and opportunitiesare undermining trust in democracy, warned a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies this week. The think tank warned of runaway incomes for high earners but rises in "deaths of despair", such as from addiction and suicide, among the poorest.

The BBC spoke to Bristol academic Dr James Hutchinson who described a sense of "powerlessness" about the cost of housing and said his work has no job security, with a series of short-term contracts. 

James said his story was "not a sob story", but said that if people feel they can't improve their lot, then they feel disconnected. A situation he said was not helped by his generation becoming increasingly aware of their expendability and a work culture haunted by a "constant lack of security".

 

Skills underinvestment "risk to UK economic success"

The Association of Colleges published analysis this week which suggested that underinvesting in skills was costing the economy up to £3.3bn, and warned that young people will be left worse off unless swift action is taken.

According to the research, the delivery of current 16-19 study programmes was not viable at the current level of funding and called for a £1,000 increase to the base funding rate.

The research was published as part of the #loveourcolleges campaign calling for better funding and fairer pay in further education.

 

Last updated: 20 May 2019