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London Met lecturers vote for strike action

29 April 2009

Members of the UCU at London Metropolitan University (LMU) have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action and 'action short of a strike' in their ongoing fight against at least 550 jobs that are at risk.

The university has been hit by funding cuts and repayment demands totalling millions of pounds following inaccurate reporting of the number of students completing courses. Its funding was cut by £15million a year and a further £36.5million has to be repaid for previous years' over-funding. The university's response to the crisis was to announce plans to axe at least 550 jobs, which equates to 800 staff actually at risk (one quarter of the workforce).

'UCU members at LMU have the full support of the national union... The situation is an absolute nightmare, but the management there needs to sit down and start properly discussing what we can do to improve matters.'
Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary

The situation came to a head when the university said it was pushing ahead with a voluntary redundancy scheme that the union argues gives no guarantee that staff who do not sign up will be sacked anyway. That announcement was made during talks designed to avoid redundancies and, UCU said, left the union with no option but to ballot members for industrial action. Last month the vice-chancellor, Brian Roper, quit, but he will remain on the payroll until the end of the year.

UCU announced last week that it is balloting members across the UK over job cuts. The union said that the employers' refusal to act as the crisis over jobs deteriorated had forced it to ballot for industrial action.
UCU 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. The union said today that the situation at London Met is an example of why an urgent agreement is needed if unnecessary redundancies have any chance of being avoided.
Ballot papers will begin to be issued on 1 May and the ballot will conclude on 22 May.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said:'UCU members at LMU have the full support of the national union in their action and can rest assured that we will be fighting the dangerous redundancy plans all the way. The situation at the university is an absolute nightmare, but the management there needs to sit down and start properly discussing what we can do to improve matters.
'Announcing a poorly thought through redundancy scheme in the middle of talks aimed at avoiding redundancies was insensitive and downright stupid. We need genuine open discussions about how we all work together to get out of this mess.'
The ballot result: 64% of eligible UCU members, who voted, voted for strike action and 71% voted for 'action short of a strike'.  The union will now decide what form the industrial action will take. On Saturday 23 May there will be a march in support of LMU in central London.
LMU has over 34,000 students and is the largest university in the capital. It has a proven track record when it comes to widening participation and has been at the forefront of the government's strategy to open up university to more students from 'non-traditional' backgrounds.
London Metropolitan University – a pioneer for widening participation:

  • 97.3% of LMU students come from state schools or colleges (31st highest in the UK)
  • 42.9% come from lower social economic groups (26th highest in the UK)
  • 51.9% of students at LMU are mature students (5th highest in the UK)
  • there are 3,565 part-time students at LMU (18th highest in the UK).
Last updated: 11 December 2015