Saturday, 28 May 2011

UNISON members ballot for industrial action against job cuts at London Met

London Met University staff in UNISON are balloting for industrial action this week, in a battle against job cuts. They have the full backing of both the students’ union and the academic union, UCU, who are also balloting their members.

The university has been rocked by controversial plans by the new Vice Chancellor Malcolm Gillies, to cut courses by 70 per cent. These new closures follow announcements to close other essential services such as the last remaining nursery, the Learning Development Unit, the Print Centre and dozens more cuts.

The latest redundancy notice served to the unions, a ‘Section 188’, brings the total so far this academic year to almost 200 proposed job cuts. The university is now slashing Library staff, Student Services, support workers and counsellors who help the most disadvantaged students at London Met who have learning disabilities, mental health issues and other vulnerabilities.

Max Watson, Chairperson of the London Met UNISON branch, which represents these support staff, and National Executive Council (NEC) member for Higher Education, said:

“We’ve made our position clear from day one: talk to the unions seriously, with transparent, open negotiations and genuinely explore ways to avoid compulsory redundancies. Instead, they’ve torn up any agreements we had, and trashed what precious little good will they had left.

“Our members have indicated time and again that we’re not going to accept these cuts lying down. The proposed statutory minimum terms add insult to injury. We’re saying: enough already! If management continue to ignore our reasonable demands in such brutish fashion, then we are left with no choice but to take strike action. I’ve no doubt our members will vote yes and I hope that management will think carefully about what that means when they do.”

Jon Richards, UNISON’s National Head of Higher Education, states:

“Cutting support staff is a short sighted mistake which will mean more work for academics and a poorer service for students. Students want more than just contact time with lecturers. And as fees rise students will expect improved resources: better library, information and guidance services; improved pastoral care in a secure environment; and quality catering and cleaning services. London Met needs to ask itself if it can satisfy this otherwise students in the future may simply decide to go elsewhere.”

Claire Locke, president elect of the Student’s Union, said:

“The Students’ Union noted in the Student Written Submission to the Quality Assurance Agency 2010 that the redundancy policy in 2009 impacted on the learning experience of students and went as far as to say that the University had let the student body down in relation to their educational experience. How the University intends to mitigate against this happening again baring in mind the severity of the pending cuts is unknown.”

“Students recognise how damaging the universities plans will be to our institution. The Student Council passed a motion in support of staff taking industrial action giving the Students’ Union a clear mandate to actively support staff.”

The ballot closes on Friday 10th June, and the results will be published shortly afterwards and any action will be coordinated with the UCU.


Note to Editors:
London Met has a higher percentage of manual Working Class students than any other university and almost as many black and minority ethnic students than the entire Russell Group put together (NUS).

The University has so far declined to carry out a thorough Equality Impact Assessment on the result of these cuts.

UNISON represents over 400 support staff at London Met Uni, and 50,000 in Higher Education across the UK.


For further info, call Max Watson, UNISON Chairperson at London Met:

0207 320 3010 / 07793 145 754

Monday, 23 May 2011

London Met Uni film against the cuts

"Here's a short film about the struggle at London Metropolitan University, which has been at the forefront in resisting the marketisation of education. Support this vital struggle for more information visit the following websites ... "

Thursday, 19 May 2011

If I could make one law... (Free education)

If I could make one law... from Stoke Newington School on Vimeo.

Check it out: year nine school students make the case for free education, interviewing students at London Met along the way.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

If music be the food of protest, play on...

The great thing about the recent protests at London Met have been the signing and the chanting - not because UNISON stewards have been on training, but because one of the courses to be cut is Performing Arts. So you can watch (Prof of Music) VC Malcolm Gillies avoiding these singing students as he refuses to meet and talk with them (he'd prefer a more classical tune, apparently):

You can see their occupation rally (with more singing) here:

And their unceremonious eviction (at midnight!) - without any singing or chanting - on Holloway Road, here:

Inspired, us in UNISON have been supporting the students in their legitimate protest against cuts as best we can and it looks like it's having some results too: There will be another lobby on the 19th, when the Board of Governors will be discussing these cuts again (they'd said before this was a done deal, so it looks like we may still win some concessions).

Watch this space for details. And sign this petition to show your support.

Friday, 6 May 2011

We are London Met, not EasyMet!

We are London Met, not EasyMet!

We pledge to resist these attacks on our Education

The announcement by London Met University to slash 70 percent of its courses is a direct attack on the students, staff and the whole London Met community, and furthermore an attack on the ethos and principles that we hold dear: of widening participation and the value of educational opportunities and the pursuit of critical thinking that universities should provide for all.

These unprecedented cuts stem from a government whose cabinet is comprised of millionaires who were nearly all Arts and Humanities students who received their university degrees for free, paid for by the state.

Yet London Met students from non-traditionally academic backgrounds are being told that Arts and Humanities subjects do not help to ‘build careers’. Professor (of Music) Malcolm Gillies has done very well so far in his career. Peter McCaffery, newly appointed Deputy VC studied History, yet his vision for London Met is one that has no history.

Philosophy too will be chopped, deemed unprofitable. The British Philosophical Association Director, Helen Beebee, has said recently:

“Philosophy has been taught in universities for over 900 years. It addresses questions that continue to be central to our understanding of the world and our place within it. The core aim of any self-respecting university should be the pursuit of knowledge; but philosophy is unique in addressing the question of what knowledge itself is.”

Arguing against the closure of Philosophy at Greenwich University, Beebee contends that the subject should be available as widely as possible:

“The new universities [...] play a vital role in this. They have broad access to parts of the community where the appeal of the ‘old’ universities is very limited; moreover, philosophy is a subject that can be studied from a wide variety of educational backgrounds.”

These attacks amount to telling working class and poor students that these subjects are ‘not for the likes of you’ and we reject this absolutely. In making these cuts, London Met management are publicly embracing government policies singling out the arts, humanities and social sciences for attack.

We believe government’s attacks on education should be resisted, not embraced.

We believe that higher education should provide working class and non-traditional students with a full range of well resourced, appropriately taught and supported academic courses, rather than a narrow set of under-resourced and 'cheaply' delivered so-called 'vocational' degrees.

We don’t believe in a ‘No-Frills’ education, provided on the cheap, with buildings but no staff. We are London Met, not EasyMet!

We believe fundamentally that higher education is a public good that benefits the whole of society as well as that of the wider economy. We further believe that universities should be run democratically as local community academic assets - with full student, staff, and community involvement. We do not accept the argument that you can have 'too many' people educated to degree level, or that we should ration educational opportunity to a minority that believe they can financially afford it.

The fight to defend publicly funded HE is not over and we do not except the defeatism of our management over fees and provision – it is a local and national struggle.

We therefore resolve to do everything in our power to fight these cuts, including as appropriate, lawful industrial action, protests, and demonstrations – we will do everything in our hands to stop this educational vandalism. We will continue to campaign for free higher education open to all and call on the whole community to sign up to this statement.