Record turnout in vote for strike action at University of Sussex

3 March 2010 | last updated: 11 December 2015

Second record vote suggests widespread university disruption this year

Members of UCU at the University of Sussex have today voted overwhelmingly in favour of both strike action and action short of a strike in their fight to save jobs. The turnout - 80.9% - is the highest figure the union has ever had in a ballot. The union said the unprecedented turnout was indicative of the strength of feeling among UCU members across the country over savage funding cuts and damaging job losses.

Over three-quarters of staff (76%) who voted supported strike action and over four-fifths (82%) agreed to action short of a strike. The news comes just a month after UCU members at the University of Leeds delivered a then record turnout to vote for strike action. There are currently strike ballots taking place at King's College London, University College London and the University of Kent.
 
The union said that although its members at Sussex had given a clear mandate for industrial action, it still hoped the dispute could be resolved without any disruption. The likelihood of strike action should become much clearer after a meeting of the university's senate on Friday (5 March). At that meeting members of the senate will have the opportunity to pass a motion that calls for the job cut plans to be put on hold while the academic consequences are fully explored under the ambit of a senate working group.
 
It will then be up the university council, which meets the following week (Friday 12 March), to decide whether or not to push ahead with the university's 'proposals for change', which will see 115 jobs go at the university. The union has been well supported by Sussex students and the students' union today gave its unequivocal backing to the union's campaign and proposed action. The union president made it quite clear that he would hold the university responsible for any disruption to students' education or subsequent drop in quality.
 
UCU Sussex representative, Paul Cecil, said: 'UCU members have today delivered a clear mandate for industrial action at the University of Sussex. We thank our members for participating in such large numbers and reiterate our belief that a negotiated settlement is still possible if the university steps back from implementing its job cut plans, votes to delay the decision and considers our alternatives.'
 
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Industrial action is always a last resort but the bottom line is that serious job losses will impact massively across the University of Sussex and result in a far worse experience for students. This result, coupled with the Leeds one, makes it quite clear just how strong the feeling is around the country on this issue.'
 
Tom Wills, University of Sussex Students' Union (USSU) president, said: 'We are right behind Sussex staff and the principled stand they are taking in defence of their jobs and our education. We will hold university management responsible for disruption to our education resulting from the strike - but moreover we will hold management responsible for the devastation that will be wrought on our education if they succeed in pushing through their cuts proposals. Strike action by staff is the key to winning this battle and we will do everything we can to support it.'

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