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Union announces strike dates at Open University in row over cuts

16 November 2015

UCU members at the Open University will walk out on Wednesday 25 November if the university does not row back from controversial plans to axe seven regional centres putting 502 jobs at risk.

Union members have called the one-day walkout across all Open University sites with further rolling one-day strikes at the different sites to begin on 30 November*. The strikes will be the first time staff have taken action over a local dispute in the university's history.

Three-quarters (72%) of members of the University and College Union (UCU) who voted in the recent strike ballot backed strike action. Eight in ten (83%) supported action short of a strike, which could include things like working to contract.

The seven centres earmarked for closure are in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Gateshead, Leeds, London and Oxford. However on 25 November, UCU members will also walk out from Open University offices in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Milton Keynes, Manchester and Nottingham.

The Open University council is due to meet on Tuesday 24 November where council members will vote on the controversial plans. The union said strike action was an absolute last resort and that the ball was now in the university's court.

The closure plans have been widely criticised by staff, students and MPs. Last month members of the university's senate rejected the plans describing them as "very high risk" and saying that they "failed to support the academic mission of the university". 

UCU Open University branch president Pauline Collins said: 'Nobody wants to take strike action, but we feel this is our only alternative. The closures have been criticised by staff, students, former students and politicians. Our senate, which is the academic body of the university, rejected the plans as high risk and failing to support the mission of the university.

'The ball is now firmly in the university's court and we hope they will see sense and reject these plans.'

UCU said to lose such a huge amount of expertise would be a devastating blow and has questioned why so many centres are being hit at the same time. Staff in the local offices evaluate and support students with disabilities, provide course materials, assign tutorial groups, run examination arrangements, advise on study options and manage the hugely popular degree ceremonies.

UCU members at the Open University have previously taken strike action in national campaigns over pay and pensions. However, things have never got so bad that they have had to walk out in a local dispute.

A petition against the closures has already received over 6,200 signatures and Bassetlaw MP John Mann has tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons that opposes the closure of the regional centres.

*Staff whose employment is connected to each regional centre will take further strike action on the following dates:

Monday 30 November: Birmingham 

Tuesday 1 December: London

Wednesday 2 December: Oxford 

Thursday 3 December: Leeds 

Friday 4 December: Gateshead 

Monday 7 December: Cambridge

Tuesday 8 December: Bristol 

Wednesday 9 December: Nottingham

Thursday 10 December: Manchester

Friday 11 December: BelfastCardiffEdinburgh and Milton Keynes national offices

Last updated: 10 December 2015