Union bosses condemn "appallingly apathetic" Kingston University lecturer's response to cuts.

Lecturers union fear KU staff apathy at education cuts

Union bosses have condemned Kingston University staff as “appallingly apathetic” after only eight turned up to a meeting to discuss reactions to the proposed education cuts.

The meeting occurred just one day after 50,000 students and lecturers from across the country protested in London against the cuts.

The comparatively poor turnout at the meeting has alarmed senior officials of the Kingston branch of the University and College Union (UCU) who believe that staff would not vote for industrial action if a ballot is called.

Peter Haywood, a senior lecturer at Kingston University who was chairing the meeting, said: “It is alarming to see so few people after such a large number turned out to march yesterday.”

Principal Political lecturer Mike Roberts was perplexed by the response of his colleagues.

He said: “Yesterday’s march was the best example of mass protest from staff at this university I’ve ever seen. Today people seem to be appallingly apathetic.”

However, many staff are believed to be keen to see what happens in terms of cuts before taking industrial action.

One member of staff from the Faculty of Health said: “I wish I had been aware of the meeting. I am not a member of the UCU, but I would like to have attended to hear opinions of what Kingston staff can and should do.”

Staff at Kingston University are facing serious threats as heavy pay cuts and potential redundancies are predicted.

Martyn Jones, Pro Vice Chancellor for Kingston University, admitted at Thursday’s Annual General Meeting that he would be forced to reduce staff numbers following a merger between three of the faculties in an effort to reduce university spending.

Nationally, it is estimated by the UCU that 22,000 jobs in higher education will be cut. 

UCU national committee member Sue Blackwell member believes it could be even worse.

“There is a real risk not only of jobs being cut, but whole departments and institutions closing,” she said.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) has offered higher education staff just a 0.4 per cent pay rise compared to the 4.6 per cent rate of inflation. This means that, overall, staff would receive a significant pay cut.  

Kingston staff took part in national protests against low pay in 2006 when they took ‘action short of a strike’ in protest. Participating lecturers withheld exam results.

A special conference is set to take place in Manchester on November 25 to determine whether or not the UCU is authorised to ballot or not. If the ballot goes ahead staff will be asked whether or not they want to go ahead with industrial action against the cuts.

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