Sussex University staff call for academic boycott in jobs protest

Posted On 27 May 2010 at 9:20 am

The University of Sussex may face boycott from teaching staff across the country.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are already being balloted on the possibility of indefinite strike action in protest against scores of job losses.

The union says these number 112 – although the university says 50 members of staff have now accepted voluntary redundancy, leaving 60 posts at risk of compulsory redundancy.

Now, union members are also being asked to vote for an academic boycott from all UCU members.

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The result of both votes is expected in a fortnight. If the boycott is approved, it will go before the union’s national committee.

UCU Sussex representative, Paul Cecil, said: “Staff at Sussex have been left with little option but to ask the union to consider the most serious measure it can take in the form of the academic boycott.

“With around 100 staff about to lose their jobs which would seriously damage the quality of education we can offer current and prospective students, and the worrying prospect of further cuts to come, our members have been left with little option but to move towards a boycott.

“This is not an easy decision to take, but we are dismayed at the failure of our management to engage in meaningful discussions to save jobs at Sussex now, or to discuss with us how to avoid similar future cuts.

“We’re keen to get the matter resolved with minimum disruption and believe that a satisfactory solution is possible. We again call on our management to engage in discussion to resolve the dispute. Our members have made clear how serious we are and that the prospect of further industrial action around the examination process cannot be ruled out.”

However, in statement the university said the boycott would damage staff and students’ interests.

It said: “An academic boycott would not produce any new solutions for Sussex. Seeking to damage the university by calling for a boycott is working against the positive development and growth of the University. We would ask UCU members to think about what is in the best interests of all students and staff at the University.

“We believe that the best interests of staff and students at Sussex is to get on with implementing the agreed changes in readiness for next year – to start planning for the use of facilities like the new teaching building, introduce the new programmes and services that everyone wants to see, continue developing our world-leading research activities, and welcoming the hundreds of new home and overseas students for the autumn – and that is what we are doing.”

If approved, the boycott would start from September 1. It would call on academic staff to support the union through refusing to speak or lecture at Sussex, apply for or accept positions or write for any academic journals edited or produced at Sussex.

UCU members have voted overwhelmingly for a rolling programme of targeted industrial action aimed at fundamentally disrupting the administration of examination boards. The exact details of the action are still being finalised.

The union says the university is also refusing to talk to the trade unions, even through ACAS – although the university says it is continuing to meet with UCU, as well as Unite and Unison.

The statement continued: “UCU have asked us to rule out compulsory redundancies in relation to UCU members. We have made clear all the way along that while we are seeking to make change by voluntary means, we cannot rule out compulsory redundancies.

“This is because the changes we are making are targeted in specific areas that have to make changes.

“In relation to any exams, we note that no such notification of industrial action has been received by Sussex. The overriding priority for the University is the interests of our students, particularly our finalists who are now completing their studies with us this year. Exams have already started and will continue as normal in the coming weeks. We will take all steps we can to ensure that our finalists can graduate as normal in the summer.”

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