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Fight the university job cuts!

The Workers Party of Britain denounces plans by a number of universities to make many of their academic staff redundant and supports the resistance being put up by some workers in this sector.

Redundancies are threatened at ten British universities, including Goldsmiths, Liverpool and the University of East London. Because ‘free market’ reforms have freed up elite universities to compete for funding with the less well-endowed areas of higher education, many of the latter are showing a deficit, even though the university sector overall is in surplus by over £1 billion.

Rather than challenge an education policy that disadvantages universities serving more working-class communities, the gutless management at these institutions just wants to take the short-term option, sacking a swathe of their own staff to cut labour costs and shrink the deficit.

Cynically, the ten universities have chosen to launch this redundancy broadside at the height of the pandemic, with lecturers already stretched to breaking point trying to serve their students. And they are trying the same old union-busting techniques beloved by unscrupulous bosses in every walk of life.

At the University of East London, five well-known members of the academics’ union, the UCU, including the chair and vice-chair of the union’s executive committee, have been singled out for compulsory redundancy in a transparent ploy to scare off resistance, while the rest of the planned 92 redundancies are ‘voluntary’ (for the moment). Staff have shown contempt for these dirty tricks, responding by taking industrial action.

The president of the Liverpool branch of the UCU, Anthony O’Hanlon, commenting on Liverpool university’s plans to decide job cuts by using performance measurements based on research grant income, expressed his outrage: “This is uncharted territory and feels like the sort of practice you’d expect in a big city corporate firm to get rid of the bottom 5% of workers. You don’t expect these brutal measures in a university.”

The truth is that, when push comes to shove, academics – intellectual workers – are just as vulnerable to this kind of oppressive treatment as any other victim of ‘fire and rehire’ management bullying. And the only strength all workers have lies in organised struggle.

The Workers Party of Britain applauds the academics’ refusal to be bullied and supports them in whatever way they choose to resist.